By DALE McFEATTERS
Scripps Howard News Service
March 04, 2009
But having to live by the constipated views on liquor and nightlife of old time Southern politicians was offset by a singular advantage: The national capital was basically recession-proof thanks to the federal government.
Indeed, in bad times Washington hires people. Entire federal bureaucracies sprung up and were staffed during the Great Depression and even now the government is looking for people to administer that gusher of cash President Obama and Congress are pouring into the economy.
Now, the national capital area has become more like the rest of the country. The federal government is still the largest employer but there are lots of other employers too and they are going bankrupt, folding, getting bought out or cutting back just like enterprises in real America. Some of the outer suburbs have been hard hit by foreclosures.
House prices are falling, not as fast or as far as some places, but Washingtonians had begun to think that 10 percent annual increases in the value of their homes was written somewhere in the Constitution, perhaps in the fine print of an obscure amendment.
Despite all the Republicans thrown out on the street last fall, unemployment is lower in the Washington region, 4.7 percent at the end of the year compared to 7.1 percent nationally. But that may change and for a very peculiar reason.
Consider the case of poor Timothy Geithner as limned by former Fed chairman and Obama economic wise man Paul Volcker:
"The secretary of the Treasury is sitting there without a deputy, without any undersecretaries, without any, as far as I know, assistant secretaries .... He shouldn't be sitting there alone."
It conjures up images of Geithner walking the empty halls of the Treasury building, his footsteps on the marble floors echoing in the long corridors, sticking his head in darkened offices and inquiring plaintively, "Is anybody there? Anybody at all?"
No wonder the poor guy messed up his briefing in mid-February on the latest bank rescue plan.
Help is probably not on the way.
Every new president is terrified of being blindsided by something in the background of one of his nominees -- unpaid taxes, nannies hired off the books, shady associates, run ins with the law. It happens and it's inevitable.
And each new president thinks he has the solution and it's always the same -- more paperwork.
Obama is requiring his potential nominees to fill out a 63-item questionnaire that, according to The Washington Post, is "a detailed probe of the person's writings, relationships, finances, tax filings, legal proceedings, domestic help and personal profiles on social networking Web sites." And, one might add, as in the case of withdrawn Commerce nominee Bill Richardson, ongoing criminal investigations.
And that's on top of extensive questionnaires from the FBI, Office of Government Ethics and the Senate committee to which the nomination is referred.
Theoretically, after a few more new presidents, the paperwork will reach a critical mass and nobody will be able to fill it out.
So if you've never really done anything with your life, made enough money to pay taxes on, written or said anything of note or dated anyone interesting and have lived at the same address all your life (the FBI is big on knowing everybody you've ever lived near), come to Washington.
Tim Geithner needs you.
Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com
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