I ran an errand that took me to Friendship Heights, an area near my house which has in recent years become the Washington metropolitan area's equivalent of Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive. Neiman Marcus, Tiffany, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Cartier, Bulgari, Jimmy Choo, Dior Louis Vuitton all exist check by jowl. Until recently the area was always crowded with well-heeled shoppers. Today, it was relatively quiet on a sunny, pleasant day in fall.
Undoubtedly the financial turmoil has taken its toll. In fact, just this weekend the Washington Post business section reported as if it were a complete surprise that high end retailers were really hurting and had felt the pain the minute the economic tsunami hit. This apparently was unexpected because the local myth was that no matter what happened there would be an inexhaustible market for sables, $20,000 handbags and the like.
I haven't seen anything about the area restaurants yet. For the past five years it has seemed as if there was no high-end chichi chef left in the world who hadn't opened a signature place in downtown Washington. It's true that the huge increase in the federal payroll after 9/11 has flooded the area with people who have a considerable amount of disposable income. On the K Street corridor, in Adams Morgan and in the newly gentrified areas of downtown it seemed as if every table in every restaurant was filled every night.
And then there are the many fancy spas offering every sort of exotic cosmetic service known to man, each more elegantly (and expensively) appointed than the last to open.
I thought of this because while waiting at the retailer I leafed through a magazine it had provided, one of those glossy city magazines which have flooded every wealthy enclave in America. All of the most luxurious service and retail establishments are the advertisers -- as they are for Vogue, Vanity Fair, Bazaar, and the New York Times. And like those more established magazines, the local ones are full of rich people at charity events, page after page of ads for extraordinarily luxurious goods, services, exotic eating establishments and features and editorials pushing a liberal agenda. The one I looked at had page after page of promotions for Obama.
Now if you'll excuse me, I understand that the fashion industry has decided that its baguette is buttered by the ultra rich and the ultra rich (at least those who buy this stuff) are unfailingly leftist. On the other hand, I wonder when it will occur to them that, in fact, it is the people in the income tiers below the Big Rich that keep them alive, and that those people cannot afford to buy the Chanel perfume and Ferragamo shoes that keep the retailers alive if the economy is not basically sound, that the young professional couples gobbling the toro sashimi will eat at home if they are worried about their jobs. Large law firms are going under along with other employers of the upper middle class and clients and customers are out of work.
If these businesses ever think about it they might recognize that they are throwing their support time after time to the politicians whose policies will drive them out of business. Either they are stupid or they just don't care. Or is it that their advertising executives are simply clueless?
When I see these fashion and lifestyle powerhouses advertising in publications that support capitalism, I'll understand that they've finally caught on. In the meantime, their rapidly declining revenues seem a fair trade for their consistent support of the politicians and policies that are the ruination of their customers and patrons.