When taxpayers are forced to support you, you can afford to become a hipster hangout.
It’s long been known that, thanks to taxpayers, the Maryland and Virginia counties nestled up against the nation’s capitol are among the richest in the country. Well, now, the inflowing money has changed the capitol itself. Washington Post reporter David Fonntana writes, “Washington is now a cool city.” He begins by telling readers about Sparky’s, a less than cool coffee shop that was once there.
Today, Sparky’s has been gone for 11 years – replaced first by the more stylish Cork Wine Bar and eventually by a make-your-own meatball chain opening its first location outside of New York. The dry cleaner is now the home of Le Diplomate, the French restaurant that Michelle Obama ate at the night before she had dinner at the White House with the actual French president. The homeless shelter has partly turned into condos that rent for as high as $7,000 a month.
It isn’t just the 14th Street corridor that has transformed dramatically in Washington. The city has, over the past generation, become a substantially cooler place – one with great restaurants, trendy bars and endless rows of glass condos. Much of Washington in 2018 arguably has more in common with the country’s hippest neighborhoods – Williamsburg in New York, Silver Lake in Los Angeles, the Inner Mission in San Francisco – than it does with the less cool cities of middle America.
Like all hip cities, contemporary Washington combines cool with a distinctive local flavor. New York is where cool meets money, Los Angeles is where cool meets beauty, San Francisco is where cool meets technology – and Washington is where cool meets government. That combination has created a class of people unique in American history. If the late 1990s and 2000s produced the hipster as a new type of cool in some of America’s more stylish cities, the more recent past has produced Washington’s version of it: the govster – a person who is able to enjoy the benefits of living in a cool city while also working for the federal government or somehow exercising influence over the direction of national politics.
Life in the capital may be good for the govster, but is it good for the country?
Anyone who has read the Mockingbird trilogy that started with the Hunger Games will know the answer. Panem was wealthy and glamorous (and decadent) because it exploited the rest of the country. Washington, D.C., is no different.
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