There's a reason that Washington, D.C. is the only part of the country that thinks the economy is doing just fine. It's because that's the reality that people there see. The town is booming, and it's booming in large part at taxpayers' expense, because of the growth in federal contracting.

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Millions of dollars worth of federal contracts transformed Anita Talwar from a government accounting clerk into a wealthy woman — one who can afford a $2.8 million home in the Washington suburbs with its own elevator, wine cellar and Swarovski crystal chandeliers.[...]

Talwar’s success — and that of hundreds of other contractors like her — is a key factor driving the explosion of the region’s wealth over the last two decades. It also has exacerbated the gap between high- and low-wage workers, which is wider in the D.C. area than almost anywhere else in the United States.

Washingtonians now enjoy the highest median household income of any metropolitan area in the country, and five of the top 10 jurisdictions in America — Loudoun, Howard and Fairfax counties, and Falls Church and Fairfax City — are here, census data shows.

The signs of that wealth are on display all over, from the string of luxury boutiques such as Gucci and Tory Burch opening at Tysons Galleria to the $15 cocktails served over artisanal ice at the W Hotel in the District to the ever-larger houses rising off River Road in Potomac.[...]

The new Washington is a global business hub with thriving technology, biotech and communications industries. Only 12 percent of workers are federal employees. But the federal government remains an engine of job creation, outsourcing its tech support and other services to contracting firms ringing the Capital Beltway, a phenomenon that exploded in the years after 9/11.

More than $80 billion in federal contracting dollars will flow to the region this year, up from $4.2 billion in 1980, according to Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. Adjusted for inflation, that’s a seven-fold increase. A third of the region’s gross regional product now comes from federal spending.

A good part of the greater Washington, D.C. area is not living the same reality as the rest of America, or even the rest of D.C., where income inequality is in sharp display if you look for it. The problem for our policymakers and opinion makers inside the Beltway is that they tend not to go looking for it, outside their comfort zone.

It's particularly galling, however, that this largesse has been funded by the rest of the country, those of us who are now going to be forced into austerity by a political class that doesn't live in reality.