Fie on Steve Forbes. Just as Washington-bashing was beginning to feel passe, here he comes again, trying to renew the attack. A few thousand bucks for every time Forbes spits out "Washington" on the campaign trail, and we'd all soon be in his tax bracket.
Well, I'm spitting back: Aw, shaddup, Steve. Washington is a great city, and even some of our fellow Americans are beginning to realize it.
Forbes talks about how often he's been flying lately, but he missed a piece in Continental's magazine that would have disabused him of the notion that Washington's just a government town. We have the second-highest concentration of tech jobs in the country, after Silicon Valley -- 3,800 tech companies in the area. Read this, Steve, courtesy of Continental: "Last year in Washington, about 20,000 new jobs were added to an industry whose 800,000 employees make their living directly or indirectly through technology." And, as a recent Post article noted, we lead the nation in Internet access, with almost 60 percent of adults here wired.
So maybe Forbes is stuck thinking we just don't know how to govern ourselves? Then he should have read US Airways' chairman Stephen Wolf's admiring piece about our new mayor's commitment "to match his love of asset management with the voices he hears imploring him to deliver safer streets, better services and a city his constituents can be proud of."
Or maybe Forbes, a devout conservative, thinks we're a pit of immorality? In all immodesty, Steve, if the rest of the nation were more like us, rather than less, we'd be better off. In Washington, a classy flick like "Shakespeare in Love" does better than in other U.S. cities, a crude comedy like "Big Daddy" does worse. Here -- "inside the Beltway" as people love to sneer -- you're twice as likely to find copies of Scientific American as in homes in other cities elsewhere. Poetry does better here, rock concerts worse. The ballet, symphony and gospel radio thrive.
All these facts and others came courtesy of a Post article in September comparing Washington to other metro areas. We rank first among the 25 top metro areas in the number of adults who buy hardcover books. We watch less TV than folks in any other top-10 market but San Francisco. As for those Sunday morning TV public-affairs shouting matches, they do better in Philadelphia. You think the nation's capital is soaked in cynicism? Animated movies do better here than average, political movies not as well as you'd expect. We got a life, Steve -- unlike some tycoon who makes a hobby out of running for president.
We're also an interestingly varied group. We have a greater proportion of baby boomers and African Americans than other cities and the largest military presence among the top 25. We're international -- and not just thanks to diplomats. A recent Post piece said "at least a quarter of a million immigrants arrived in the region during the 1980s, and nearly as many followed in this decade. . . . Today, 1 in 6 area residents is foreign-born, up from 1 in 12 in 1980 and 1 in 22 in 1970."
Oh, we've got our problems -- partly because so many want to live here. The place is sprawling, the traffic jams horrible.
Those of us who live in the heart of the city don't have to worry much about that. The subway is great, the buses good, the streets walkable, the climate mild. We do, however, have a different problem: disenfranchisement. Congress bars us from spending money as we wish, refuses to let us tally certain votes it dislikes -- and sees to it that we have no voice to complain about this treatment. The Census Bureau says District dwellers pay more in taxes annually than people in six states -- and more federal taxes per person than citizens from all but one state, Connecticut. Taxation we've got, representation we don't.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, recently recognized here championing freedom among the former Soviet republics, began his acceptance speech by saying how much it meant to him to be "in this city named for George Washington -- the citadel of democracy." But we citadel dwellers don't get much democracy.
Still, this is a great city, and it's a shame so many Americans don't believe it. People like Forbes think they can poke a stick in this city's eye, and no harm will be done. But harm is done -- to people whose hometown this is and to a nation that deserves to be proud of its beautiful capital.
So fie on you, Forbes. I'm just glad there's no danger you'll be joining us here any time soon.