Federal Employees News Digest

The Worried Well class

Ever hear the term “worried well” or maybe “the worried well.” If so, do you connect it with Washington? With the home base of your elected and appointed leader?  Bear with me for a couple of minutes…

Just a few blocks from my uptown D.C. office, there is a gated park/playground limited to children ages two to five, and their parents or, more often, their nannies or au pairs. From the neighborhood along Wisconsin Avenue, it is possible to literally look down on the Russian embassy, the U.S. Capitol Building and be above the 555-foot tall Washington Monument. The vice president lives nearby (in government housing) at the Naval Observatory.  Nice shops. Nice restaurants, as you would expect. One (the Café Deluxe) recently closed. One of the waiters said it was because the landlord had raised the rent to $45,000. A month! I would have moved too.

 Gulp. But you get the idea.

Like I said, it’s a nice neighborhood.  Real nice.  Some federal civil servants live in the area.  But not GS 7s. Most of the feds who live nearby—the former head of the CIA, the former Director of the FBI and head of the FDIC—are in the upper echelon. Many are political appointees and spouses.  Like the former Attorney General. And lots of lawyers, lobbyists, some very famous journalists (I work there, but live elsewhere) and again, lawyers.

The composition of the neighborhood means there are lots of really good looking, mostly white, kids. Attended by good looking (mostly Latino) helpers who help while Mom and Dad are at work, or the gym or cycle classes.

To us mere mortals, these people appear to have it made.  Lots of money, good jobs, good-looking wives (the husbands, not so much). Great kids. 

And yet…

Many of them are not happy. Or don’t appear to be.  Despite money, leisure time, control, you-name-it, they are missing something. Or so they believe.

Take the ages two-five kids park. The extensive list of rules is in English and Spanish. At both entrances. It explains that high-heels are not allowed. Nor are people under two or over five, unless they are support staff.  Then they can watch but not play. The kids can have fun but not run hard, or scream loudly. Nor can they throw things. Its likely many of them can’t read or, if they can, don’t pay much attention to written rules.  But they seem to get by. There are also neighborhood gardens—a holdover from World War I—where the elite can grow tomatoes and flowers. Or more likely—like White House first ladies proud of their green thumbs—hire somebody to tend the crops.

While they have seemingly idyllic lives (to the likes of us anyhow) many belong to the Worried Well class. They’ve got it made, and yet.”  Several years ago a British newspaper reported that “The Doctors are reporting huge rises in the ‘worried well’ – healthy patients who, fueled by Google and Wikipedia searches, are diagnosing themselves with everything from food allergies to brain tumors.” And other worries

The neighborhood—like most of the city— is progressive.  All elected officials are Democrats and have been for decades.  And yet when the city decided to put a homeless shelter near the police station, the neighborhood revolted. Most if not all other shelters are in lower-income parts of D.C. Primarily the southeast and northeast sections of town. Which, according the folks in the upper Northwest neighborhood, is where they are, uh needed.  Or at least belong.

Further up the avenue, about two miles, is Chevy Chase Village (across the DC line) in Maryland.  The average household income there is $460,000.  Houses go for a lot more, probably, than in your neighborhood or mine.  It is also a politically progressive area. When Vice President Mike Pence moved nearby in a rented house (before the Inauguration gave him his current abode) neighbors put up signs in their yards saying the ex-governor of Indiana wasn’t welcome. Nor his wife. Newspapers reported that people turned their backs when the Pences’ walked or drove past.  Some thought it was a way to support the Resist Movement.  Some thought it was kinda un-neighborly.

 Anyhow, the Village made the front page of the Washington post Aug. 29 because of its dog park.  Like the two to five kids park near my office, this park is for special dogs of special people.  And the toney dogs also have helpers. Walkers, and groomers.  Like the kids, and like the kid’s park, this dog park has lots of rules. One is NO EXCESSIVE BARKING.  This despite the fact that the park is full of high-energy, top-pedigree, pampered pooches some of whom like to bark.  A lot.

The village is home to lots of people with lots of clout. People who are used to getting their way. Spoiler alert.  Houses in the village range in price from a modest $1.1 million to $22.5 million.  Sound like where you live?  The barking is so bad that they recently commissioned a $1,300 private study on barking. Conclusion: Some dogs bark. A lot.  Lots of people don’t like it. Money well spent, right?

The villain in the Post story is a five-month old golden retriever named Chubbs. Despite the clearly printed NO EXCESSIVE BARKING rule, he barks.  A lot. I mean he’s five-months old. And a golden retriever.  Surrounded by other pampered pooches.  Doing what they do. Barking. Chasing tennis balls, smelling each other’s butts.  What anybody (dog) would do in a gated fun zone for elite dogs which the village paid $134,000 to have set up.  Now guess what? Some of the dogs can’t read.  They bark.  A lot.

Best of all, this being elite Washington, the woman who chairs the village board is the wife of Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. That is THE board. Not just a board.  Powell has been lots of criticism recently from President Trump who’s looking for people to blame when/if the long-over due recession hits.  And Powell probably feels the pressure. Not only the normal pressure of the job as chairman of the world’s most important financial policy outfit, but also as the newest punching bag for the guy who appointed him.  The Powells probably have enough stress now without dealing with phones calls the police and neighbors demanding something be done about Chubb.

 And you thought you had problems!

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Contributors

Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
Tom Fox VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service
Mathew B. Tully Legal Analyst

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