THE Republicans are in power and there are going to be tremendous changes in government. Right? No, wrong. It isn't that they are reluctant to make the changes -- it's just that they can't. Thousands of patronage jobs are available, but no one can take them, and I'll tell you why. There is no available housing in Washington for the middle-management people who are supposed to take over the town.
The sad truth of the matter, as the GOP loyalists are starting to discover, is what the Democrats have learned in the last four years. Real estate rules the town and, although many people will be out in the streets, nobody is moving out of town.
The people on Reagan's team think this is very unfair. As one told me the other day, "How can we move in if they won't move out?"
"I guess the people you're firing have no place to go."
"But how can we increase military spending, cut taxes and balance the budget if our supporters have no place to live?"
"You should have thought of that during the campaign. Anyone who lives in this city would have told you that no one intended to pull out if Carter lost the election. Our $50,000 homes are now worth $350,000. If the Republicans want to come to Washington, they're going to have to pay through the nose."
"I'm aware of that," he said angrily. "I went out to see a Carter appointee yesterday and asked him if he would be willing to give up his house for his replacement. He just laughed at me and said, 'You can take my office away from me, but my home is my castle.' I told him he owned it to our American political system to move out of Washington when the other party came to power. He said he had no intention of leaving, that he was joining a law firm and would be representing all the clients he had tried to throw in jail while he was in the government."
I said, "We in Washington call that the 'revolving door' system of government. When you're in, you represent the people; when you're out, you represent those who are trying to shaft the people. That's why there is no turnover in real estate."
"I'm beginning to learn that," he said. "I went to see another high official in Carter's administration and asked him when he was moving back home. He told me he planned to stay through Reagan's entire first term, because with all the changes that would take place he'd be in heavy demand as a 'consultant.' He said he had messed things up so badly in his department that he was the only one in Washington who understood it."
"That's usually the case when someone leaves the government. He is then in great demand as a consultant."
"What am I supposed to do?" he said. "How can we ask our people to come to Washington if they have no place to live?"
"You could build Quonset huts on the Mall. They did it during the war. Or maybe you could put mobile homes on the back lawn of the White House. You could hook up water and electricity and set up a laundromat in the East Room. Of course you wouldn't want to put a trailer in the Rose Garden because that's a national treasure."
"You're not being very helpful."
"I really don't have any great ideas for you," I told him. "Reagan won because he attacked Carter's inflationary policies. The biggest inflationary problem is the housing in this town."
"But how can Reagan do anything if his own people aren't here in town?"
"He can't. That's why so many Democrats have taken his landslide victory in stride."