The Beltway Beast

"A permanent feudal class"

The Beltway Beast and its tentacles tap into every city, county, and state. But there is so much more to the Beast's immensity and complexity. The Beltway consists of Washington, DC, and surrounding counties; and the Beast includes defense contractors such as Northrop Grumman that make fighter planes and drones, lobbyists, major corporations with their public affairs departments, think tanks, advocacy groups, journalists, foreign agents, and everybody else who wants something from our government. All of these congregate in the Beltway and are actively engaged in soliciting legislative favors and taxpayer money. Then there are Congress and the White House who need the lobbyists and Wall Street for campaign funds, all part of the Beast living in a bubble called the Beltway.

It is The Club, as The New York Times Magazine's national correspondent Mark Leibovich described in his book, This Town.3 He further describes, in the words of Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, today's Washington as a "permanent feudal class," a massive, self-sustaining entity that sucks people in, nurtures addiction to its spoils, and imposes a peculiar psychology on big fish and minnows alike. The members of The Club have their own culture with lots of acronyms and are detached from the daily struggles of Main Street America. Here is where the massive wheels of power turn, where the deals that affect us all are brokered, where average, everyday Americans are relegated to the back of the bus—if not tossed underneath it.

To be fair, many of our newly-elected leaders and public employees are honorable people with wonderful ideas and idealism. They go to Washington to serve their country, only to realize that Washington has its own universe, one that is far removed from the daily realities of America. And before they can make a difference, they get sucked into the belly of the Beltway Beast. Even our presidents find themselves unable to escape the vortex-like pull. Presidents of both parties, during the campaign and while in office, routinely make solemn pledges to the people—only to renege on virtually everything they have promised, including their vows to change "the culture of Washington" and to do the people's business in a different way. It is not that they are inherently bad, have purposely lied to or deceived us. It is that the Beast has gotten them before they have gotten the Beast. The politicians are not the only ones whom the Beast has swallowed alive; the journalists, think-tankers, and career public servants have been drawn and quartered as well.

This sort of deadly seduction is understandable. As human beings we are wired with a strong desire to be accepted—indeed, to be liked—by our social, cultural, or political surroundings. This is the human flaw that the Beast thrives on (along with those other failings, that the root of all evil is the love of money, power, and status). They start believing that what they are doing is right and that without them everything will fall apart.

© 2016 The Beltway Beast and its affiliates

Munir Moon *** The Middle Class