The real truth about Washington: There’s no swamp

Washington is not a swamp.

Since at least the days of Jimmy Carter, presidential politicians have run against Washington, which is — according to the standard indictment — overrun by corrupt politicians, overpaid lobbyists and self-important media types. President Trump is no exception and, indeed, in his sneering description of the nation’s capital as a “swamp,” has done his predecessors one better.

But his portrait is an absurdity. It bears little relationship to two overriding realities. First, the rewards of government go mostly to “the people” through massive transfer programs such as Social Security. Second, the costs have been borne mainly by the rich and upper middle class, who pay most taxes, and foreign and domestic lenders who cover chronic budget deficits.

It’s true, of course, that many Washington legislators, lobbyists, lawyers and journalists have done well — and there are repeated instances of sleazy lobbying, greed and undeserved wealth. But this bounty affects thousands, not millions, and influence-peddling thrives because Washington distributes so much money to “the people.” The same holds true for protecting popular tax breaks: say, the deductibility of charitable contributions and interest on home mortgages.