Monday, November 1, 2010

D.C. Envy

Washington D.C. was the proud recipient of me and my positive attitude from Thursday of last week to Sunday. I had to go for a couple meetings on Friday, and then my traveling companion and I stuck around that part of the world for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. It's really a good thing that I did go to help flesh out the crowd. Barely 250,000 people showed up. I don't want to say that I was key to making the event a success, but I can't think of another way of finishing that sentence. It was one of those weird things where you go to a event and you can only barely see a giant monitor and you're literally about a mile from the stage, but you're still happy that you went. This phenomenal partial view of the monitor was the payoff of standing in one place for six hours next to a group of 7 or 8 freshman-aged wastes of life that must have smoked about 30 joints and 60 cigarettes over the course of the 6 hours. Really, they were just absolutely terrible people, maybe the worst I've ever experienced in my entire life. Here are a couples quotes from one of the guys:

"You don't even know what it takes to be me. I have to spend three hours in the gym everyday."

"I've done every drug in the world. Name a drug and I'll tell you if I've taken it. Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, so many times I can't even count, yep, yep, cocaine really clears out my system."

The good news is that this guy is a proud member of the U.S. Army.

Aside from the busy rally attendance of Saturday, I had a good amount of time to tool around D.C. between Thursday and Friday evening. I walked the national mall, quickly saw most of the key monuments and buildings, and found myself envying the majesty of Washington D.C. As the center of our nation, it is understandable that it should be an impressive destination. In addition to the traditional biggies, there were several new buildings near the mall, any one of which, if built in Detroit, would be the BIGGEST DEAL OF THE DECADE. I'd even take the Newseum in the D (which opened in D.C. in 2008) and enjoy it thoroughly despite its immense lameness. In addition to this, property values in D.C. and the surrounding suburbs (especially those in Virginia) have benefited immensely from D.C.'s largesse and the fact that if you want to do business with the federal government, you probably have to have a pretty big presence in the D.C. area. I don't fault any particular individual act or person for our country's trillion dollar deficit, but it does bother me a little bit as someone from a depressed big city that every federal tax dollar flows through D.C., and they can do pretty much whatever they want with it to keep the D.C.-area economy rolling along.

What's my point in all this? It has been five years since my last trip to D.C. and I forgot how much I enjoy it, but I do envy the leg up that region has on most other areas in the U.S. including our own. However, when I think about it, not that many areas in our country have clear economic advantages - the Bay Area has incomparable technology talent, D.C. has the feds, Connecticut has GE (which is an advantage unto itself), and a few tourist hot spots like Miami also tend to be a strong draw for businesses. Metro Detroit, while certainly not sexy, is one of these rare places in the U.S. that has a specific and significant business advantage. We have lived and died by the automotive industry (mostly died of late), but having these gigantic manufacturing+technology companies within a pretty small radius for about 100 years has provided a backbone for continued manufacturing and technology development if we just figure out how to harness this power as a state. I'm a pretty jealous guy and clearly very defensive of my home turf, but I just can't use "everywhere else has an unfair advantage over us" as a reasonable excuse for our troubles. We are the ones with an unfair advantage. Can we figure out what to do with it?

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