Spent an hour and 20 minutes this weekend grabbing a bite to eat and run some errands in the heart of an Imperial City smug, contemptuous suburb. You know, the kind of place that the producers of ‘Friends’, the makers of Ugg shoes and niche emporiums that sell bits of nothing for a whole lot of something would think of.
It was an hour and 20 minutes precisely because the parking is almost as precious as an Obama Inaugural ticket. This enclave of the self-satisfied is not unique here. In fact, its ambiance of escalating effete consumerism is pervasive around the so-called Beltway (within and without).
During our time sitting in a widow seat picking at a remarkably overpriced morsel (so many places now seem to congratulate one for the privilege of entering the premises) we decided to conduct a glaringly unscientific survey. We started to count cars. On the streets slowly parading by and along the street parking. We saw scores of Mercedes, Volvos, Toyotas, BMWs, Nissans, Hondas, Mitsubishis and so forth. We counted exactly 14 American brand cars/SUVs (Volvo’s corporate ownership aside).
14. Now, as we all know, California has been like this since the early 1980s. And observers of the pre-Roger Smith GM at that time wrote that once the Big Three lost California it would be a harbinger of, well, today.
What struck a chord is that the people parading around here are in one way or another emblematic of why the financial ‘services’ thieves grabbed over a trillion in an eyeblink and Detroit is now on an IV drip. They are the influential if faceless staffers on the Hill, lobbyists, media types, ‘advisors’ — in short, people who are wealthy simply because they make and return phone calls, along with paperwork sent somewhere somewhen.
Simply put, the Nomenklatura of the Imperial City by and large are not rabid Shelby-ites on the Detroit issue. Nor do they relate to the UAW or Detroit. What they care about is their ability to consume, to overpay. ‘Systemic risk’ assumes a starkly different, more self absorbed meaning in this narrow strata than even Bernanke could imagine. The urgent warnings from Governor Jennifer Granholm are background noise interfering with a spa appointment.
The neighborhood wasn’t always like this. The first picture above is an extravagant estrogen eyesore where a grocery store used to stand (and no, we are not defecting to Mansfeldian ‘sociology’ — one really must see it to believe it). Across the street back in the day was a local cement factory that actually produced something. All gone. It’s doubtful much if at all will change in Obama’s America. More money than TARP flows through Imperial City suburbs on defense, IT and homeland security-related boondoggles. The Nomenklatura has sized things up already. The Boy King is no ‘systemic risk’. And judging by the 14 American cars in that isolated, unscientific 80 minute counting game, neither really is Detroit.