A 2010 column I wrote highlighted “the unflattering parallels between the imperial rule of ancient Rome and that of modern America,” as illustrated in Cullen Murphy’s book, “Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of Rome.”
The federal payroll in Washington Murphy pegs at 360,000 (BO: Before Obama), calling this estimate a “convenient deceit,” as an “even larger number of people in the Washington area — about 400,000 — work for private companies that are doing government work.” Add to the above a quarter million people who live in the vicinity and feed off the government directly or indirectly; the lawyers and lobbyist, the wonks and accountants, the reporters and caterers and limousine drivers and panegyrists, and all the aides and associates whose job it is to functions as someone else’s brain.”
Don’t forget that the D.C. hood is home to your favorite oh-so gritty media personalities, who gather inside or near the Bubble to reap “the benefits of being at the center of the Imperium.” Back to their role model, Rome:
The biggest component of [Rome's] prodigious intake was something called the annona, an in-kind tax levied by Rome on everyplace else, and collected in the form of grain, which was used to provide free bread for most of Rome’s inhabitants. … Eventually, the annona was expanded beyond grain to include olive oil and wine. If you think of the annona as tax revenue, which it was, then the revenue not only accomplished its stated purpose of feeding the city; it also supported large swaths of private-sector activity, from shipping to baking to crime. Some of this activity was encouraged with tax breaks and grants of citizenship. There was great wealth to be had off government contracts. … the annona remained [the Empire's] essential lifeline, preserved at all costs.
“All life in Washington today derives ultimately from the capitals’ own version of Rome’s annona — the continuous infusion not of grain and olive oil but of tax revenue and borrowed money. Instead of ships and barges there are banks, 10,000 of them designated for this purpose, which funnel the nations’ tax payments to the city. This ‘never-ending flow of revenue creates a broad level of affluence that has no real counterpart anywhere in America.” Says Murphy: “Washington simply doesn’t look like the rest of America.” But its residents “fail to view this as bizarre.”
Fox News’ Sean Hannity is catching up, and has featured a documentary about how Washington works and how we all work for DC. (Transcripts should be available here, in a day or two.)
In the “one-hour special, ‘Boomtown,’” writes Wynton Hall at Breitbart.com, “the host, Sean Hannity; Peter Schweizer, the president and co-founder of the Government Accountability Institute; and Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News and co-founder of the Government Accountability Institute, investigate what they call crony capitalism among the city’s power elite and the tactics used by lobbyists, bureaucrats and legislators to finance their lifestyles with taxpayer money. ‘Boomtown’ will reportedly provide a bipartisan look at Washington’s wealth explosion and uncover how the culture of cronyism has created a life of luxury for insiders at taxpayer expense.”
Conveniently and predictably, Mr. Hannity has awoken to American fascism now that a Democrat is in office. To their credit, the two documentary makers made the point over and over again, and it is: There is not a dime’s worth of difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. Their members and family members over generations partake in the spoils system with equal energy.
Lest you forget the privileged members of the media and the political punditry; they are friends of fascism too. The D.C. hood is home to your favorite oh-so gritty media personalities, who gather inside or near the Bubble to reap “the benefits of being at the center of the Imperium.”