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O, for the life of the average District resident in 2013! Gobbling up steaks and fine wines, then paying cash for a Tesla sports car and driving it home to a luxury high-rise. The only risk inherent to the lifestyle, aside from the gout, was that the rest of the country would find out how large the city was living.
Enter Sean Hannity. One night in January, the Fox News host devoted his entire show to an expose on the dionysian lifestyle of Washingtonians. Along the way, Hannity’s segment inadvertently put a name on the District’s growth, both real and imaginary: “BoomTown.”
Faced with the choice of showing the D.C. area’s government-sponsored affluence as the inevitable result of lax lobbying rules and two wars, or as the result of D.C. being a greedy tick on the neck of the country’s private sector, Hannity chose predictably.
“The luxurious living that’s afforded here doesn’t come from its own creation of wealth,” Fox guest Peter Schweizer warned. “But it comes from extracting wealth from the rest of us.”
Hannity wasn’t alone. “BoomTown” came at the crest of a wave of stories on Washington’s wealth, when comparing the District to the teen-abusing Capitol from The Hunger Games came as easy as breathing for pundits. Days before the Fox special aired, the New York Times ran an article about Washington’s high living, complete with a red meat title that would have fit in on Hannity: “Washington’s Economic Boom, Financed By You.”
District residents weren’t living as high as Hannity and the Times would suggest. In one of many tenuous comparisons, “BoomTown” put the national food insecurity rate—one in six—up against D.C. levels of wine consumption, neglecting to mention that the District’s food insecurity rate itself is almost the same.
There wasn’t time for corrections. Sequestration struck in March, and it was time to write about the District’s impending economic doom.