David Frum

09.26.12

Why Isn't Washington DC Hip?

There's been quite a bit of hair-puling over why Washington DC isn't hip. Rebecca Greenfield went through a long list, including geography, building code limitations, and affluence.

And then Josh Barro went full Carville, declaring something to the tune of "It's the nerdy people, stupid."

I was at a house party and a friend of mine introduced me to a friend of his. “Josh used to work at the Tax Foundation,” my friend said, “So he can tell you what state has the highest gas tax.”

“What state has the highest gas tax?” replied his friend, in an effort to make what counts as conversation in Washington.

“Well,” I said, “Often there is a specific excise component and an ad valorem component, so it can shift with the price of gas. It can be hard to say.”

“Oh, don’t I know it,” replied my new acquaintance. Unfortunately, he wasn’t mocking me. He was a staffer at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and he had faced the same challenge. I advised him that the American Petroleum Institute publishes the most up-to-date tax tables quarterly.