Here’s how you’ll know the conservative movement means something again: When the Conservative Political Action Conference, which just held its annual meeting, moves from Washington, D.C. to Rockford. Or Dubuque. Or Peoria. Or Helena. Or San Antonio. Or Bakersfield.

Anywhere but the District of Corruption.

I attended a couple CPACs back in the mid-1980s, at the height of the Reagan euphoria. I remember one where I sat in the back for a Reagan address and who should walk in and sit next to me at my table but Irving Kristol. That was before the neo-paleo split became obvious, and he was the “godfather” of attacks on the Soviet Union, which all of us did, especially anti-communists like me. I had only a couple of words with him.

The Reagan era had some high points, mainly winding down the Cold War with the Sovs without getting us all nuked; and tax cuts, for the rich anyway. The middle class got tax cuts in 1981, but tax increases with Bob “Tax Collector for the Welfare State” Dole’s 1982 TEFRA tax increase and the (Alan) Greenspan Commission’s 1983 Social Security tax increase. Reagan backed both.

So, to use an American vulgarism, the rich got the gold mine and the middle-class got the shaft.

But one of the worst things of the Reagan Decade was the swarms of conservatives who came to Washington to do good, but stayed to do well. The place now is infested with “movement conservatives,” sometimes called Conservatism Inc.

An incredible $4 trillion a year of our tax money courses through D.C. every year. Worse, the government controls almost every aspect of the rest of the country, from the amount of water in your toilet to what your children’s school teaches about God. (He hasn’t been in favor for 50 years. Godless communism was defeated in 1991, but the godless U.S. Warren Court will be around seemingly until doomsday).

During the past 40 years, the burgeoning conservative movement has done nothing but increase the contents of its pocketbooks.

I worked in Washington briefly in 1977, then continuously from 1982 until 1987. I always hated the place. One of the happiest days of my life was in late June that latter year when I drove West out of the Beltway, heading across our beautiful country. But I couldn’t escape D.C. In the Show Me State, I got shown a ticket for going 65 mph, 10 mph over the limit Nixon had imposed in 1974 during the bogus “energy crisis” with his idiotic double-nickel national speed limit. “55 Stay Alive” – remember that slogan?

I ended up in Southern California, La La Land, living 28 miles from where Tricky Dick is buried in Yorba Linda. But even the land of lotus eaters and Disneyland is made up of solid reality compared to the political and economic fantasies cooked up on the swamp on the Potomac.

If you’re a conservative in Washington, you go to parties and hear gossip about how Our Side Is Doing Something Important. But it never happens. Everything always gets worse. Reagan, for example, was put into office by pro-lifers. He even wrote a pro-life book, “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation.” Well, he must have had a bad conscience when he appointed pro-aborts Sandra Day O’Conner and Anthony “Worse Than Teddy” Kennedy to the U.S. Supreme Court. And who, voting for Reagan in 1980, could have guessed that it would his appointment, Kennedy, who would impose same sex “marriage” on the country in 2013?

I once kept track of the party gossip I heard about what was going on in the Reagan administration, such as who would be leaving a particular post. About 50 percent turned out to be true. Which means the gossip is essentially worthless, but tantalizing.

What happens to conservatives in D.C. is that, even if they claim to believe in decentralism and federalism, their very presence in D.C. shows they actually believe the opposite. They work for a central solution to decentralization.

When I was growing up in the factory suburb of Wayne, Mich., West of Detroit in the 1960s, the richest counties in America were those North of Detroit, where the auto executives and owners lived. They produced real, tangible things: cars, trucks, buses. Now, it’s the D.C. suburban counties that dominate the national list, populated by lobbyists, bureaucrats and private-sector parasites that troll for public-sector dollars.

If you wonder why Detroit, GM and Chrysler went bankrupt, look no further: the money was sucked from producers there and sent to the parasites in D.C.

During my stay in Washington, the only good things were the museums, especially the National Gallery of Art; and the National Symphony Orchestra, which played in the U.S. taxpayer-subsidized Kennedy Center.

I also saw a way-off-Broadway production of Sartre’s “No Exit.” I never could read the play, or any other Sartre. But the performance was compelling. Sartre’s most quoted line comes from the play: “Hell is other people.” Wrong. Hell is a real conservative trapped in Washington, D.C.