To be considered part of the 1 percent in this area, it takes a household income far above the national average of $387,000. The
gateway for the region is $527,000. In the District, the top 1 percent of households bring in at least $617,000; in Montgomery County, more than $606,000; and in Fairfax County, $532,000, according to an analysis of census statistics by The Washington Post and Sentier Research, a firm that specializes in income data.
Most of those people making the big bucks are exactly who you would expect: doctors, lawyers, chief executives, managers and management analysts. Eight in 10 households in the 1 percent are white. Just 6 percent are black. Many of the one-percenters are clustered in affluent enclaves in Northwest Washington, Bethesda and Chevy Chase.
The percentage of area households with impressive, if not eyepopping, salaries has grown as well. In 1980, just 3 percent of households in the region had incomes that were the equivalent of $200,000 or more in today’s dollars. Now 13 percent do.
Meanwhile, middle incomes across the region have inched up over the past three decades, after being adjusted for inflation, and the incomes of the bottom fifth have stayed essentially flat.
With such economic disparities fueling voter resentment, President Obama has made addressing income inequality and raising taxes on the rich hallmarks of his reelection campaign.
Last week, he and Mitt Romney traded jabs over Romney’s wealth, with the president remarking, “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth,” and his Republican opponent retorting that Obama ought to focus on “attacking problems” instead of “attacking people.”
State and local officials are also debating just how much of their budget shortfalls should be borne by the rich. Maryland lawmakers are split over whether to raise taxes on high-earners.
Shortly before Occupy protesters took up residence in two downtown parks, waving signs that said “Eat the Rich,” the D.C. Council voted 7 to 6 to impose a higher tax rate on the city’s wealthiest residents. The measure is expected to bring in more than $106 million over four years.
Some local millionaires say the political rhetoric has made them feel unfairly targeted.
Raul Fernandez, a tech entrepreneur and vice chairman of the company that owns the Washington Wizards and Capitals, said he had a surreal moment this year when he was accosted by Occupy protesters on his way into a black-tie dinner at the Capital Hilton. He grew angry as they called him names and doused him with glitter.