Homes in Loudoun County, Va., among most affluent in United States

While the rest of the country suffers through a housing and credit crunch,
Beltway bandits are cleaning up and making denizens of the nation’s capital
richer than ever.

New Census Bureau data reveal a whopping 11 of the 25 wealthiest
counties in America – including the Top 3 – are now in the Washington
area
.

Some of the most affluent zip codes in the country have always been around
the capital. The tiny towns of Alexandria and Georgetown showcase old
colonials, new Mercedes and fancy bistros.

But since the 9/11 attacks – which spawned high-paying government jobs and
billions in defense and homeland security contracts – wealth has spread to
surrounding counties all within commuting distance of D.C.

They include the Virginia counties of Loudoun, Fairfax, Arlington, Stafford
and Prince William, as well as Alexandria city (which Census lists among
counties). And in Maryland, they include the counties of Howard, Montgomery,
Calvert, Charles and Anne Arundel.

American taxpayers might be surprised to know the wealthiest county in
the U.S. isn’t anywhere near Manhattan, Beverly Hills or Silicon Valley.
It’s Fairfax County, Va., which last year topped $100,000 in median
household income – the first U.S. county to do so – thanks to Uncle Sam
awarding employers there an astonishing $13 billion in new federal
contracts.

It’s followed by neighboring Loudoun County, boasting $99,371 in median
income. That’s more than double the national median.

Interestingly, Census in its publicly available reports no longer ranks
counties by household income, according to senior Census analyst Kirby
Posey, who helped WND compile its own exclusive rankings from the latest raw
data tables.

“The rankings ended in 2003,” Posey said without elaborating.

The concentration of wealth inside the nation’s capital alarms fiscal
conservatives and small-government advocates such as the Cato Institute, who
argue runaway federal spending is crowding out the private economy.

Like it or not, Washington has become big business in the age of terror. And
as a result, the nation’s seat of government has also become its seat of
wealth – an admittedly strange phenomenon for a laissez-faire economic
system.

Federal contracts in the name of the war on terror have been doled out in
record volume, and most have gone to local defense contractors and other
Beltway bandits.

In fiscal 2005, the latest Census data, Virginia landed $2.1 billion in
Department of Homeland Security contracts alone, beating out all other
states, the latest Census data show. Together, Virginia, Maryland and D.C.
grabbed a whopping 40% of the total $10.2 billion in contracts DHS awarded
that year.

Uncle Sam has been especially good to Maryland and Virginia in the war on
terror. Defense, security and computer contractors have been in a feeding
frenzy there.

Since fiscal 2000, both states have seen a doubling in federal government
expenditures for total procurement contracts, according to Census. They
soared to $22 billion in fiscal 2005 from $11 billion in Maryland, and to
$39 billion from $21 billion in Virginia. Fairfax County alone got $13
billion in contracts in 2005.

“It’s nice to have a rich uncle,” said Stephen Fuller, an economist at
George Mason University in Fairfax.

And one who’s running a long war right next door.

Thanks to the enormous flow of federal tax dollars into the surrounding
area since 9/11, Virginia now tops all states for per-capita federal
procurement spending with $5,104, according to the lastest data from Census
.
And neighboring Maryland ranks second with $3,908.

“That’s what drives the private economy here,” said University of Baltimore
economist Richard Clinch.



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