The Washington Post headline caught my attention: “Federal workers grow increasingly nervous about Trump’s proposed budget cuts.”
That’s a headline that would surely make George Washington smile.
He appointed three commissioners who named America’s then-new capital city for him in 1791. They also called its site the Territory of Columbia, which Congress renamed as the District of Columbia in 1871.
But today, Washington the city has little in common with Washington the man.
Consider: After George Washington beat the British against overwhelming odds, he was so popular, he could have become our king. Instead, he used his immense power to help establish the Constitution, which grants power to us little folks.
How many power players in Washington today would give up such an opportunity? Too many people there love having centralized power over other people ---- love telling the rest of us what kind of health insurance policies we must carry, to cite one recent example that has been especially costly to me and millions of others.
True, George Washington believed in a strong central government, but his purpose was to hold our fledgling nation together and to provide a proper defense against our adversaries.
Washington believed private industry should be able to ply its trade freely without the federal government continually butting in.
But there hasn’t been much limiting going on in Washington in recent years.
According to Forbes, six of the nation’s 10 wealthiest counties in 2013 were in the D.C. metro area. Since 2000, federal spending has more than doubled. Our central government fuels 40 percent of D.C.’s regional economy and more than half of its jobs ---- generating the funds for young professionals to drive luxury automobiles, live in upscale homes and dine frequently at hoity-toity restaurants.
George was a gentleman farmer who was born into a modestly well-to-do family. Through a modest inheritance, land speculation, his marriage to Martha (a wealthy landowner) and his business acumen, he grew his net worth to about $500 million in today’s dollars.
Whereas too many power players in today’s Washington impose complexity on the rest of us, George believed in simplicity. He commissioned a French architect to design the city that bears his name in four orderly quadrants.
The place was surely easy to navigate years ago, but thanks to countless rules and restrictions it is impossible to get around in now. Almost every road has one-way traffic. If you need to turn right, you are only permitted to turn left. Lewis and Clark couldn’t navigate modern D.C. with Google Maps and a busload of Harvard geologists.
Though Washington was not highly educated ---- his formal schooling ended around age 15 and he spent time learning to be a surveyor before getting involved in the military ---- he was a lifelong learner.
He toiled in his gardens to cross-breed the perfect plants. He was forever trying new ways to cultivate and harvest his crops. He was an experimental maker of beer and whiskey ---- his distillery was the largest in America at that time.
Humbled by the unforgiving realities of nature and business, Washington attained wisdom and horse sense. He became a master of economy and good judgment ---- traits that are rare in modern Washington, D.C.
The town is overdue for a makeover and I hope President Trump will be the bold leader who can give it one.
If we can restore the traits that made George Washington great ---- if we can stop federal spending from bankrupting us and stop federal bureaucrats from impeding on private freedoms ---- our future will be bright.
Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.