What do they make? It’s what everyone wants to know, especially when it comes to the small world of K Street. National Journal delivers this week with the “Envy List,” its 10th biennial salary survey of the top dogs in Washington’s biggest trade associations, professional societies, think tanks, and interests groups.

Among the top earners in our review are John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, who received a total compensation package of $5.57 million in 2008; Billy Tauzin, the departing CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, who made $4.48 million; and Scott Serota, CEO of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, who took home $3.99 million. The highest compensation went to Marc Lackritz, the now-retired head of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. He received an exit pay package that boosted his total compensation to $6.76 million in 2008.

The eye-popping info goes on and on, including serious salary data for former big cheeses and some juicy nuggets on how Wall Street’s Washington gang fared. NJ requires an expensive subscription**, but you can be sure this issue is being passed all over town. In case you can’t wait: Steve Bartlett, president and CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable, made $1.63 million in 2008; Timothy Ryan, CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, $2.02 million; and Edward Yingling, president and CEO of the American Bankers Association, $2.29 million.

There’s also a useful look at the inside-the-Beltway logic that holds that this is all as it should be:

So, why such fat paychecks? Mainly because Washington is now playing a key role in the economy. “If you look at the size and the scope of some of the public policies being talked about in Washington, they can have a huge impact on an entire industry, and corporate CEOs have come to understand it really matters who is in charge of your trade association,” Doug Pinkham ($355,352), president of the Public Affairs Council, said. Corporate executives want their trade association leaders to help their industry navigate legislative and regulatory processes, and to secure a seat at the negotiating tables where key decisions are made.

Well done, National Journal, for crunching the numbers.

**UPDATE: While National Journal magazine stories are usually behind a firewall, the main story about the salary survey is available free.

—Public attitudes about homeownership have changed since the foreclosure crisis, and a new survey from Fannie Mae tries to sort out exactly how. But in its preview of the survey, The Washington Post takes a lot in stride.

Among the major shifts the survey found is that the public is less likely to view a home as a safe investment. In 2003, 83 percent of those interviewed in a similar study by Fannie Mae said real estate was a safe investment, compared with about 70 percent in the most recent survey.

“That is one of the big changes we have seen in attitudes. We need to figure out whether this is a sustainable shift,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s vice president and chief economist.

Isn’t it at least a little surprising that 70 percent still think a home is a safe investment? And what does Duncan mean when he wonders if this is a “sustainable shift?”

Not surprisingly, Felix Salmon looks at the same survey sees a lot of cause for alarm.

It confirms what I’ve been hearing anecdotally: that people still believe in housing as an investment, and that the enormous nationwide housing crash has done much less to alter Americans’ attitude towards homeownership than we might have hoped.

Holly Yeager is CJR's Peterson Fellow, covering fiscal and economic policy. She is based in Washington and reachable at holly.yeager@gmail.com.