Exporting The Capital

Sitting in traffic on the Capital Beltway, I started wondering at what point the city just seizes up due to the overload. I was at one of the well known choke points that is just about impossible to avoid, but there are few spots around the beltway that are ever moving at maximum speed. The snarl I was in was at 7:30 PM, which is not all that unusual for DC. The fact is, the major highways around the District are well beyond capacity and there is not much that can be done about it.

It’s not just the beltway or inside it. Northern Virginia has traffic that reminds me of Los Angeles. In fact, the area is a lot like LA now. They say Washington is Hollywood for ugly people and the residential areas now have a similar vibe. It’s that feeling that the people who laid out the roads and neighborhoods were always in crisis mode, putting down streets and houses in an effort to keep pace with the flood of new people. The result is large scale suburban chaos.

Hassling through traffic, I started thinking about the new idea liberals have to reconnect with the little people in flyover country. They want to relocate chunks of the government to the hinterlands.

America’s post-industrial Midwest is far from being the country’s poorest region. To find the direst economic conditions in the United States, one generally has to look toward Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta region, the Rio Grande Valley, and a smattering of heavily Native American counties in the Southwest and Great Plains. What the Midwest’s recent economic struggles bring, however, is not just large-scale political salience but a particular kind of fixability.

The poorest places in the United States have been poor for a very long time and lack the basic infrastructure of prosperity. But that’s not true in the Midwest, where cities were thriving two generations ago and where an enormous amount of infrastructure is in place. Midwestern states have acclaimed public university systems, airports that are large enough to serve as major hubs, and cities whose cultural legacies include major league pro sports teams, acclaimed museums, symphonies, theaters, and other amenities of big-city living.

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But industrial decline has left these cities overbuilt, with shrunken populations that struggle to support the legacy infrastructure, and the infrastructure’s decline tends to only beget further regional decline.

At the same time, America’s major coastal cities are overcrowded. They suffer from endemic housing scarcity, massive traffic congestion, and a profound small-c political conservatism that prevents them from making the kind of regulatory changes that would allow them to build the new housing and infrastructure they need. Excess population that can’t be absorbed by the coasts tends to bounce to the growth-friendly cities of the Sunbelt that need to build anew what Milwaukee, Detroit, and Cleveland already have in terms of infrastructure and amenities.
A sensible approach would be for the federal government to take the lead in rebalancing America’s allocation of population and resources by taking a good hard look at whether so much federal activity needs to be concentrated in Washington, DC, and its suburbs. Moving agencies out of the DC area to the Midwest would obviously cause some short-term disruptions. But in the long run, relocated agencies’ employees would enjoy cheaper houses, shorter commutes, and a higher standard of living, while Midwestern communities would see their population and tax base stabilized and gain new opportunities for complementary industries to grow.

Now, the idiocy of this lies in the general snottiness of the article. Matthew Yglesias is known for being one of those smug stupid people the managerial class is so good at producing. Even so, it would be a good way for solving what is becoming a critical problem in the Imperial Capital. There’s simply no more room. We’re full. In fact, we’re beyond full. Shipping out some of the agencies to places without a lot of people would fix two problems.

Obviously, it ships the people out of the capital, alleviating some of the congestion. Sending Housing and Urban Development to Detroit would be good for Detroit and good for the capital. Detroit has a need for urban development so putting the urban developers right there in the Motor City would be a marriage made in heaven. Even better, Detroit has lots of slums that were in no small way created by the idiocy of the Department of Housing and urban Development.

Now, a lot of government is already spread all over the country. Social Security has a huge facility outside Baltimore. West Virginia is dotted with Federal buildings thanks to former Klansman and US Senator, Robert Byrd. Alaska also has a lot of government due to the vast amount of natural resources that need managing. Still, some states, like Maine, have almost no big Federal installations. Putting the Department of Interior in Caribou Maine would be great for the state economy.

The major benefit of distributing these departments would not be economic. The real benefit is they would lose their value as nesting places for the army of tax eaters and their private sector analogs. If a middle management job with the government meant a posting in Caribou Maine, current temperature -18° C, I’m thinking many of those jobs would go unfilled. Even better, if that department secretary had to phone it in for cabinet meetings, I’m thinking Congress loses interest in them.

Let’s hope the Progs get their wish and we ship the plague of Washington out to the rest of you!

46 thoughts on “Exporting The Capital

  1. “I was at one of the well known choke points that is just about impossible to avoid”

    Reminds me of the Springfield area; was it? Haven’t been there since 2002 but grew up in DC metropolitan area, most of the time in Alexandria. I went to high school not too far away from Springfield, VA, and even then traffic was always a nightmare in the Springfield area. At that time, there were little houses with big grassy yards with trees and honeysuckle bushes, some with a goat or pony even, on the perimeter of my high school’s property. The “campus” consisted of the school building (the smallest in Fairfax County at the time but with the finest marching band, which I was a member of) with driveway out front for buses and cars and then fields for sports (football, baseball, soccer, field hockey, track) on sides and out back of school building. By the 90’s, all those homes were gone and were instead condos and office parks and multiple-laned roads. And a huge highway exchange was also constructed in Springfield but traffic was still a mess!

    You described the DC-area well:
    “It’s that feeling that the people who laid out the roads and neighborhoods were always in crisis mode, putting down streets and houses in an effort to keep pace with the flood of new people. The result is large scale suburban chaos.”

    DC is strangely backward that way. When the Metro was first opened, we’d have to walk along roads not only without sidewalks, but with ditches instead of shoulders, so one was forced to walk right on the edge of the road, close to commuters whizzing by in their cars. The area was still affordable then, but much costlier by the time I left in 2002. I miss the greenery and dramatic rainstorms of that area.

  2. Govt service should be like serving in the military.

    Make feds & legislators move to a different city every few years.

    Pay should be tied to military pay scales.

    Every other year legislatures are moved aboard an aircraft carrier on extended deployments.

    See how many DC barnacles manage to cling beyond one week at sea.

  3. I would encourage Americans who are tired of all the craziness to head back to Europe. Ireland has the most open policy for Americans of Irish heritage as one need only prove your Grandparents were Irish should you want to head to the emerald Island. The weather’s not so great, but the people are very friendly and you won’t feel crowded. The UK is also pretty easy for Americans, even to the point if you have an English born mother you are entitled to UK citizenship. There is still plenty of open area north and north west of London and the Brits, Irish and Scots are still very okay with Americans and would welcome you into their communities. On that same note, I would say of all the continental countries, Holland would be the most welcoming to Americans and they don’t hesitate to speak English.

    Germany, unfortunately, is not quite so open. I have to admit, Germans are not known for being the most friendly people, but once friendships are established, we are good and loyal neighbors. For young people, our universities are free and they have very good programs for foreign students. Jobs pay well, health care is excellent and as with all Europeans, we enjoy 6-weeks of paid vacation every year. Switzerland, well, good luck. They’re tough on everyone especially since 25% of the countries population is non-Swiss. But they have the highest salaries in Europe, (along with the highest cost of living) the trains are still very much on time and the country is post-card pretty everywhere.

    If you’re at retirement age, Spain is not so bad as tens of thousands of Brits have settled there over the past several decades. It’s affordable if you avoid Barcelona, housing is relatively cheap plus the weather is excellent. Portugal is cheaper yet, but the language will be a challenge, but cost of living is even lower and like Spain, the weather’s good most of the year.

    I would have to admit, France, Italy and Greece would probably not be the best destination for Americans. Not because of all the horror stories about Islamic attacks, but because they are less likely to accommodate non-native speakers. But I know many towns in France that have enclaves of American ex-pats who have retired there, especially in central-southern areas in France and around the Toscana region in Italy..

    Scandinavian countries, while beautiful, are very expensive and winters are harsh. Further east, Poland, Czech Hungary and to some degree Austria would also be a challenge given they don’t have a history of association with Americans and the language would be a real problem.

    Despite all the stories in the press, Europe still remains a very safe place to live and raise a family. If you can live within your mean and have a modest lifestyle you will fit in very well just about anywhere. With the exception of London or Paris, which can be a nightmare for any commutes (car, train or underground) the majority of continental cities are not so densely populated. With the exception of the recent Islamic attacks, violent crimes are actually quite rare in most European towns and serious crimes are generally limited to the bigger cities. Petty crime does happen at the train stations where foreigners are known to pick-pocket and steal the unattended backpack now and again, but home invasions, drive-by shootings, car-jacking are unheard of. Overall, most of Europe remains a safe place to live and raise your children.

  4. On a smaller scale, that’s what Texas needs to do with Austin. It is a pit of Progs in a red state. Travis County is where they get the Democrat District Attorneys who like to press trumped up charges against Republican politicians. So take all the state offices and spread them around. Gerrymander much? Why not.

    Likewise, spread the leftists bureaucrats around the country so Maryland and Virginia can be red state, too.

  5. If you ship federal bureaucrats out into flyover country, they will just become part of a greater occupation force. No thanks.

  6. My late father was in the Foreign Service and I spent most of my life in the NoVa suburbs. But the town we lived in was a *town* back then. Now it’s just solid megaplex as the entire Northern Virginia area continues it’s Tysons Cornering. I still live her, albeit a bit further out and I hate this. I don’t even have to “Beltway bash” and I hate it.
    I want a damn cabin in the woods somewhere, albeit with an internet connection and maybe a Costco that’s not a full hour’s drive away.

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  8. The military spreads its bases around, partly out of a self-interested desire to maximize political support. Having an important military base in one’s district tends to concentrate the mind of an elected official like nothing else. I don’t see any reason why the feds couldn’t do the same thing.

    If it were up to me, I’d put the Supreme Court in rural Wyoming or Alaska. Justices should be as far from the influence of the rest of the country as possible. Hell, I’d move them to Guam if I could.

  9. You poor bastard, what an awful place to live. (I grew up in northern Virginia but got out soon as I could). What do you know, a sensible idea from the Dims. But it’s too logical to be implemented.

  10. I’d rather, one time only, join the Progs in their worship of wetlands, and return DC to it’s natural state. Right after I move the UN to Lagos.

  11. No way!! This simply infests flyover country with a bunch of liberal parasites – IOW turn red areas blue.

    If you are going to put them anywhere, put them in a nasty area like the Mojave Desert say the city of Trona or maybe San Jose. The former is a hell hole and the latter is a already a stinking liberal cesspit albeit a very expensive one.

    If we put them in Trona, we can build their facilities from the tens of thousands of shipping containers sitting in our ports. Slap a A/C unit on the site and put some flooring in and you have a nice pre-fab unit for paper pushers. They don’t need windows. Port-a-pottys will keep the workers from loitering or sleeping in the toilet stalls. A couple of Quonset huts set for the cafeteria and you’re ready to go. And surround the entire facility with chain link fence and barbed wire to give it that penitentiary look.

    Once the federal workers see this set up, they’ll quit or die from shock. Either way a win win for the American people.

  12. Had a long argument over a week or two regarding this topic on social media recently. It is a horrid idea. The premise is that “moving” HUD to Detroit would literally mean that HUD moves its entire operation to Detroit. That is not going to happen. They’ll scare-quote “move”, but the mother ship will remain in DC close to the $$$ and close to the lobbyists. What you’ll get is a 30% increase in manpower, all the same crap still in DC, and now you’ve got an infestation of Federal bureaucrats harassing the population.

    The funny part about the other person’s argument was all the “jobs” this would create. She is a government employee, so she naturally thinks that government creates jobs. She’s also unaware, and really rather offended by, the simple economic point that she pays no income taxes because her income taxes are paid by the Treasury just like the rest of her paycheck. You can’t draw 100 gallons of water from the pool, pour 20 gallons of it back, and claim you’re filling the pool.

    A reason, not necessarily the reason, but a reason for the rabid anti-Trumperism out there is the simple fact that he won the presidency on 1/8th of the budget and a very tiny fraction of the staff. You listen to the post-mortems about Clinton, and one of the first things you start to realize is the ARMY of people she was employing. It was massive. Trump didn’t just get outspent, he was vastly outnumbered. And he won by landslide proportions, particularly considering the predicted margins of his defeat.

    Now we’re hearing that he’s cutting back on the PDB’s, and may restructure the press briefings. Why? Because they’re a complete waste of time. I was in government for about 20 years, and it is infested with process and routine and procedure that serve zero governing or economic value. About 65% of Government in all departments is “make work”.

    They fear Trump because a guy who can win the presidency on 1/8th of the budget and a shoestring staff might go to Washington, take a look at all the meaningless bullshit that people spend their time sitting in traffic not doing anyway, and decide to just start cutting. Most of these straphangers are a complete waste of time and money.

    No, sending them out to the hinterlands to achieve some level of convenience for Beltway drivers is stupid. Like everything else the Government does, it won’t solve the problem it was intended to solve, but it will multiply those problems like the plague upon everybody else.

  13. Hell no! Simply moving things around is not the answer. The answer to government is to get rid of most of it. Regarding getting moving people back to the midwest, I think the government could use some incentives to motivate people to relocate and reconsider their “life goals” regarding living in paradise. Seems everyone has flocked to paradise, where ever that may be and made it a living hell. And the places they have left have been left a living hell or deteriorated into one.

    I want to hear Trump say these words to many on the Federal payroll who are Do Nothings …”You’re Fired!”

  14. Why not make the senators and representatives work from their home states and come to the capital once a year? With all the modern technology why must they all be there year round. They should be more reachable to the people that they represent.

    • Well now you’re being completely unreasonable. Can you imagine the kink that would put in the workings of lobbyists, campaign funding machinations and deal making? Working from home would make those “closed door” and friendly get-togethers for strategizing against the Deplorables just that much more difficult. And besides, it’s more fund to hang around with “your” kind of people and not “those” kind.

  15. Concentrating all the crap in Washington has its good points, for example isolating the rest of us from their taint or having them all in one convenient place if the time comes when they need to be rounded up and liquidated.

  16. Abolishing about 90% of all the Federal Agencies would be a far quicker and more effective way of alleviating traffic congestion in and around the DC area.
    It would also eliminate the “need” to fund these vast parasitic cesspools that suck up the citizenry’s money and destroy individual freedoms.
    Scattering federal agencies around the nation will just metastasize the cancer that is destroying our nation and make it more difficult to eradicate. Once a federal agency is ensconced in some other area, the local authorities will want to maintain its presence because it will provide (sales, income) tax revenue to the local area.

    Better to kill the cancer when it’s all in one spot; and that would be the cloaca of Washington, DC

  17. “Alaska also has a lot of government due to the vast amount of natural resources that need managing.” Makes me wonder how all those natural resources got along for millions of years without Federal bureaucrats!

    • Good luck, and lots of it, that’s how. Might almost make you think there is a God, and some kind of order in the cosmos. Hmmm . . . naah.

  18. Time for a warm cup of cocoa for anyone who thinks that the size or cost of the FG would go down this way. Lots of liaison slots with more travel budget would be the first priority. Of course the upside would be telling the SES’s that their position has been moved to Fargo and they can resign or mover there.

    While it is fun to think about, pay would have to up a lot to attract a few competent people that are needed to carry the vast load of affirmative action hires in seeming compliance with their bureaus’ legal mandates. Far, far better to slash the headcount in DC. That way you get the best of both worlds: Less traffic and lower costs. I sure hope Trump’s serious about that. Anybody who’s had the experience of budget cutting knows that there’s no serious cost reduction without lots of pink slips.

  19. I don’t think getting sections of government away from the seat of power has any beneficial effects in the long run. Two cases in point: Springfield, Illinois, and Constantinople. In both cases functions of government were moved away from the old seat of power, yet the corruption continued apace. On the other hand, keeping them all in one place gives us something to hate in an objective manner. When the revolution comes we all know where to go.

    • Teaparttydoc;
      Not to get all OCD on you, but Springfield IL as the state capital was an 1830’s political compromise location somewhat midway between the established banking center at that time – 1830’s – of Shawneetown lL with Ohio River Basin logistical advantages, and the upstart primitive trading post of Ft Dearborn (aka Chicago) with potential Great Lakes basin logistical advantages.

      As many another military oriented commenter has already said: Amateurs pay attention to tactics, pros pay attention to logistics

      • You just made my point. The capitol was not located at the center of power even then. So locating the political organs away from the centers of power makes no difference.

  20. “the major highways around the District are well beyond capacity and there is not much that can be done about it.”

    I can think of a few things… All of them would also go a long way towards balancing the budget and lowering the need for taxes.

    • Yup. Zman suffering a lack of imagination here. Turn all interstates around DC into toll roads, then set the tolls just high enough so that supply meets demand. Hmm. Supply and demand. It’s as if economics applies to people’s commuting choices.

      • Too easy to scam.
        Soon enough, a free toll pass will be a standard perc for all the gubbmint nobs.
        Only the little people will get hit by that.

        The offices should be moved to distant locations.

        EPA in California. They like that crap there. Energy to Oklahoma, or Eastern Kentucky.
        Education… well, education, if not abolished outright, would be best located in Wolf Point Montana.
        Wolf Point is a place where real people live & work hard. Riff raff doesn’t thrive there. A perfect healing place for a meddling, useless, destructive bureaucracy like that.

  21. The Cincinnati IRS office was st the core of the conservative targeting scandal. Need not worry about infecting the rest of the country, it’s already happened…

  22. This is your dumbest idea!! I live in Kansas not for its democratic potential, but for the “quality of life.” The people we
    would end up with would be the losers from DC or P-town. Or a bunch of welfare seekers from Somalia, Allepo (sp?), Afghanistan. No thanks, leave us alone.

  23. Relocating from D.C. may be a good idea; what is so out-of-touch is the idea that pol’s from the other 80% of the country would vote to relocate all that juicy spending to 20% of the country (Midwest) because some dork like Goldberg or Kristol thinks “it might work” or it might help some war-loving pol from the White House he befriended twenty years ago.

    • I was thinking along those lines. You could probably get the Democrats to support a bill requiring only “renewable” sources of electricity be used in the District. Then, Perry’s Energy Department could ensure that no such sources exist (as a last at before shuttering the Department).

  24. First the hiring freeze, then Homeland Security to El Paso, Department of Energy to Midland, and Department of Eduction to Wichita.

  25. Hell no, not Maine! Leave us alone.

    Maine? What Maine? Never heard of it. No such state. You must be thinking of Missouri. These are not the moose you’re looking for.

    What a goddam nightmare that would be. We already have too many assholes from Massachusetts up here.

    Keep Maine Shitty! It’s one of the last halfway decent places left.

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