29 April 2007

Why You Count More Than I Do

Over 3,000 Americans have died trying to bring Democracy to Iraq (depending on which lie, er...reason for invading Iraq you believe).

One of the seminal events that helped bring about the birth or our nation was the Boston Tea Party. A protest against taxation without representation.

Yet President Bush and Republicans in Congress (and a few weasel Democrats) insist that the U.S. Citizens that call Washington DC home, should be denied the right to have full representation in Congress. The 581,000 residents of DC (66,000 more than the state of Wyoming) are second class citizens who have no vote in the House or the Senate. Not only are we denied the right to have any meaningful access to Congress, but that very same body has the ability to nullify any local law passed by our elected city council. And anytime one of us has a concern over issues of national importance (war, peace, the environment, Social Security, taxes, etc.) we have absolutely no one to turn to in Congress. Our only opportunity other than the courts is to vote for a President every four years. I can't imagine that writing a letter to a sitting President is bound to have much impact.

The House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would give our Delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the right right to vote on the floor of the House. Besides the fact that the Senate is likely to oppose the measure and the President has said he will veto it, the bill as passed does not do enough. I know it is baby step, the result of compromise and wheeling and dealing that would give us at least some kind of representation. And I do have respect for those that are trying. But the fact is, we are American citizens and deserve to have a Representative in the House and two, yes count 'em, two Senators.

I also realize that there may actually be reasons why the current bill, if passed, may not be Constitutional. Of course there is a way to fix that by amending the Constitution, but the chances of that happening are slim to say the least.

There is no way the Republicans would let DC have full representation in the Senate while the population of DC remains enthusiastically Democratic. The vast majority of DC residents are Democrats or left leaning Independents.

So here is my take on an obvious idea: DC residents should not have to pay federal income taxes. We have no representation, why should we have the taxation? I will got further, however, and insist that the federal government still make appropriate payments to the District. The presence of the federal government in DC puts a huge strain on our infrastructure and means that about 70% of the land in our city is non-taxable. Imagine if your city had to do without 70% of its property taxes.

The different spin is this: such an action may actually help bring full voting rights to the District in the end. If residents of the District didn't have to pay federal income tax, it is quite likely that a lot of Republicans living across the Potomac in Virginia would move into the District. Perhaps enough of them to even up the political makeup of the electorate. Once evened out, or at least altered enough to give Republicans a fighting chance at winning office, Congress might be so moved to give DC the full vote. Once we have the vote the feds can start taxing us again. After all, we're used to it.

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