Northern Virginia’s vast, taxpayer-funded riches

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My second Time column is now online. Here’s how it starts:

When the Census Bureau announced last August that northern Virginia’s Loudoun County had become the nation’s most affluent, with a median household income of $98,483, it was something of a shock to locals. Loudoun is far from exclusive: a third of its 255,000 residents arrived in the past half-decade. The median house sells for $440,000. These Loudounites are not trust-fund babies or Wall Street zillionaires but youngish professionals with kids to raise and mortgages to pay off. Read more.

The column goes on to explain that this mass affluence (Fairfax County, which is just east of Loudoun and has more than a million residents, has a median household income almost as high) is mostly the product of government procurement spending. Which is more than a little unnerving: The most economically successful region of America right now, Northern Virginia, is successful in large part because of deficit spending.

There’s more to the story than that. I touch on it only briefly in my column, but there are interesting reasons why most of that economic growth has happened in Virginia instead of Maryland or D.C. proper. I’ll post on that aspect in the next couple of days.

Update: Here’s the promised post. And here’s another.