Only a Deep-Stater Could Prefer D.C. to K.C.

By Jack Cashill

There’s more to life here than lower home prices, but you have to keep an open mind to discover the benefits.

There’s more to life here than lower home prices, but you have to keep an open mind to discover the benefits.

The story goes that a fellow who worked for the Department of Agriculture was seen leaving work one afternoon with a tragically long face. A co-worker approached and asked what was wrong, and the fellow said sadly, “My farmer died.”

The department does not yet offer one-on-one service—with nearly 100,000 employees, it’s getting close—but of late there have been a lot of long faces around the Department of Agriculture. Indeed, not since the Colts left Baltimore on their midnight run have so many people so resented a forced move to the Midwest.

A recent photo pretty much says it all. On the stage, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is showing a PowerPoint announcing the imminent departure of two agencies within the Agriculture Department for Kansas City.

In the auditorium about two-dozen employees of all races, creeds, and political parties—well, at least of all races and creeds—stand with their heads bowed and their backs to the good secretary. In the Ag Department, it seems, you can throw a temper tantrum in the afternoon and still have your job in the morning. Readers are cautioned not to try this tactic in their own workplaces.

From the photo, I cannot tell exactly what the PowerPoint says, but if Mr. Perdue hoped to cheer these sad sacks, he might have begun with real-estate prices. According to the Housing Opportunity Index, in the first quarter of 2019, the median price of a home sold in metropolitan Kansas City was $238,000.

In Washington and northern Virginia, the median price of a home was more than 50 percent higher at $360,000. In the Maryland suburbs, the median price was $400,000.

If you worry about how underpaid government workers could possibly survive in such a pricy market, don’t. The median family income in those two markets is roughly 50 percent higher than in Kansas City.

Here is a horrifying bit of news: only in Silicon Valley and Marin County do people on average earn more than they do in metro D.C. So if your kids aren’t bright enough to program a computer, remind them they can make a good living auditing the people who can.

As a side note, to show just how totally whacked things are in California, the median price of a home in metro San Francisco runs a cool $1.27 million. This means that a family of median income in that market can afford to buy only 7 percent of its homes. In Kansas City, a family of median income can buy nearly 70 percent of the homes.

If Secretary Perdue had told his troops they were shipping out to San Francisco, they would have had good cause to rebel. Not only are the housing prices much higher there (and the human poop deeper), but the commute is also longer.

Not so in Kansas City. No metro in America larger than KC offers a shorter commute time. Here, the median commuter spends roughly 40 minutes coming and going to work. In metro D.C., it’s 60 minutes. 

The ease of coming and going here offers an added benefit for the ag bureaucrat. He or she (or zhe) can drive a half hour from Kansas City in any direction, even less in some directions, and see real farmers in their natural habitats, growing real crops like corn and soybeans and raising real animals like pigs and cows.

Given the proximity of the farm world—one of the stated reasons for the decision to move—Ag Department workers could actually talk to these folks and get a sense of why they think and act and vote as they do.

This, of course, presumes that the disaffected Agriculture Department workers care about agriculture. The evidence, alas, does not support that presumption.

The articles in the local media trace the disaffection to the obvious and easily understood gripes that come with any major move. However, an article in the DC insider publication, The Hill, hints at a deeper “resistance,” the kind that merits quotation marks.

According to The Hill’s Zach Burdyck, the organized protest seems to be coming from one of the two affected agencies, the Economic Research Service (ERS).

Writes Burdyck, “Some ERS staff have expressed suspicions the relocation is an attempt to shrink the agency and weaken its ability to conduct research that does not align with the Trump administration’s policy agenda.”

Most Ag Department workers in D.C., I am sure, are happy to put in an earnest 40 hours and retreat at day’s end through the overheated traffic to their overpriced homes. These folks might be swayed by the obvious benefits of living in Kansas City.

Some, as Burdyck implies, could care less. These folks don’t just happen to “conduct research that does not align with the Trump administration’s policy agenda.” They aspire to do that kind of research. They dream of doing it and leaking it and getting high fives in Georgetown bars.

As you might have surmised after 2 years of steady subversion, President Trump is not very popular in the district. To decode Burdyck’s language here, it helps to recall that Trump received a whopping 4 percent of the vote in the District of Columbia. Hell, he did twice as well in San Francisco.

Trump did, however, carry just about every agriculture county in the country, save those that specialize in pineapples and marijuana. The nation’s farmers might just see themselves better aligned with the president they voted for than with a deep-state resistance that no one voted for, ever. And don’t underestimate the subversive power of the Ag Department. Remember, Alger Hiss once worked there.

When the Future Farmers left Kansas City for Louisville, now that was a blow. But if these not-so-merry mutineers force their bosses to stay put, we ought not take it personally.

For the resistance, anyplace that is not Washington is nowhere. 

About the author

Jack Cashill is Ingram's Senior Editor and has been affiliated with the magazine for more than 30 years. He can be reached at The views expressed in this column are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Ingram's Magazine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *