Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Myths of Wealth

I used to have a son-in-law whose constant refrain was that Republicans had all the wealth of the country tucked away in their mattresses. Since this myth has been propagated by liberals since the beginning of the republic, his attitude was not surprising. As a rock ribbed (but not rocky abs) conservative who keeps the wolf from the door with a couple of social security checks, a part time job and a meager savings, I found his arguments laughable. What did I expect from a union man (SEIU) and a resident of a state which is bluer than lapis lazuli? He was, like most of the wife’s relatives, a boiler plate socialist. (Ed: a highly accurate appraisal.)

He has now taken “French leave” but the sources of this myth are still with us and, I must say, highly active in perpetuating the lie. From what I consider a highly reliable source Forbes I have a list of the twenty wealthiest counties in the United States. That is, those counties where the average income exceeds $80,000 a year. A normal person might expect to find the traditional locations of high income achievers singled out on this list. Would not the county where Bill Gates and other technology types live surely be there? How about some county with Texas oil tycoons or Wyoming coal barons? About the only non-surprise is a hand full of counties close to New York City.

So where is the single largest concentration of wealth in this fair land of ours? The Washington, DC area hosts ten--yes half of the twenty listed--of the richest counties in the nation. The six counties in Virginia and the four counties of Maryland which are immediately adjacent to the District or else abut the ones that are, made the top twenty. (To my faithful reader in Reston, VA: yours is one of them.) Two of them, Fairfax and Loudoun in Virginia, are in the numbers 1 & 2 spots respectively. Third place belongs to Howard County, Maryland, also essentially a suburb of the District.

When asked why he robbed banks, the notorious felon of the mid-twentieth century, Willie Sutton replied: “Because, that’s where the money is.” Do you suppose that could have been part of the reason all those wealthy people choose to live so close to the seat of government? I am certain it was not a deterrent. Who in their right mind would take their ill-gotten gains from commerce or industry and retire in any of these places? While there are many lovely homes in these counties, there is little else to draw people there except the prospect of accumulating additional wealth.

So, how about the politics of these counties? All ten of the DC suburbs went solidly for Obama with Alexandria City, Va. (due to a peculiar construct of law, Alexandria has a status equivalent to a county) topping the DC list at a 72% plurality. In the aggregate, Obama prevailed in 12 of the 20 with an average of 63.4% of the vote, with Marin County, CA coming in at 78%. McCain found favor in 8 of the richest counties by a slimmer margin of 59.5%. Note that only two of the elite twenty were located in the South: Forsyth County, Georgia and Williamson County, Tennessee and they gave McCain his largest margins. Surprisingly, only three of the counties were located west of the Mississippi.

Given the lop-sided preference for BHO, may we conclude that my son-in-law was as messed up as a $1 watch? Perhaps he just fell victim to a continuous stream of false assertions as he “drank the Kool-Aid.” He was definitely not alone.

Here follows, for your personal interest, the list and the political outcomes according to state, county, average income, vote outcome (McCain=M; Obama=O), and percentage:

Fairfax—VA $100,318—O—60.1%

Laudoun—VA 99,371—O—52.5%















Santa Clara—CA—80,838—O—69.6%

Prince William—VA—80,783—O—57.6%

Alexandria City—VA—80,449—O—72.0%


In the interest of equal reporting it is only fair to cite Buffalo and Shannon Counties in South Dakota for their ranking as well. They are, respectively, the two poorest counties in the US according to Wikipedia, with per capita income pegged at $5213 and $6284. Buffalo County supported Obama with 73% of the vote and Shannon gave him 89.9% to rank as the highest percentage total of any county in the entire country. Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. Shannon County has an American Indian population of 94.2% and the most familiar town designation is Pine Ridge--also the name of the reservation.

Shannon County is also the site of the infamous massacre of 300 Lakhota Sioux at the hands of the 7th US Cavalry in late December 1890. More recently it was the location of a well reported protest by the American Indian Movement in February 1973. The standoff at Wounded Knee was resolved after 71 days.

I have probably been watching “Mythbusters” on the Discovery channel too long. However, there is something about the truth that is satisfying if you can just ferret it out. In today’s political climate it is not only difficult but dangerously close to impossible.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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