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More on DC Voting – “Let’s do something” is the problem with Washington

In response to my first post, there were too many issues raised to deal with all of them, but several merit a response.

First, and most importantly – the phrase “let’s do something” raised in one comment is precisely the disease that too often engulfs Congress and the rest of Washington. It is almost never necessary to “do something.” It is almost always VERY BAD to “do something.” The Banks are failing – “do something.” The economy is in trouble – “do something.” A museum is needed for Woodstock – “do something!!!!!” The idea that we cannot survive without Congress “doing something” is the biggest problem we face today…

With respect to this issue – DC representation – it’s hard to believe that with terrorists running amok (many more soon thanks to Democrat control), an economy in bad shape, a completely broken immigration system, and a looming Social Security and Medicare crisis, that the DC representation issue is the most pressing matter… particularly considering it is not exactly a new issue!

Speaking of… and to my second point, the “taxation without representation” line is tired and overused in this context. Besides the obvious point that only a small portion of the residents even pay taxes in the first place, consider that this issue is not new and was addressed by Chief Justice John Marshall in an 1820 opinion:

The difference between requiring a continent, with an immense population, to submit to be taxed by a government having no common interest with it, separated from it by a vast ocean, restrained by no principle of apportionment, and associated with it by no common feelings; and permitting the representatives of the American people, under the restrictions of our constitution, to tax a part of the society…which has voluntarily relinquished the right of representation, and has adopted the whole body of Congress for its legitimate government, as is the case with the district, is too obvious not to present itself to the minds of all. Although in theory it might be more congenial to the spirit of our institutions to admit a representative from the district, it may be doubted whether, in fact, its interests would be rendered thereby the more secure; and certainly the constitution does not consider their want of a representative in Congress as exempting it from equal taxation.

Third, ok… you caught me. You are correct that the better analysis re: the overall federal spending issue is the relative per capita expenditure vs. per capita tax burden. So, according to the Tax Foundation, the federal-spending-per-dollar-of-taxes in DC in 2005 (sorry I didn’t find more current) was $5.55. The next closest? New Mexico with $2.03… placing DC at almost 3X the next highest… and almost 10X the lowest (New Jersey).

Fourth, and finally. Sure, Heritage points out the “unassailable premise of government by consent.” Yes. We all know. Government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” The plight of the residents of the District of Columbia is not exactly the saddest story I have ever heard, however. They do have a free will (i.e. they can move). They do have the benefit of massive tourism. They do have the entire Congress looking out for them in the end. They do vote for President. They do get a national defense. They do get a ton of money.  They do enjoy the rule of law and the protection of the same freedoms as the rest of us.  The list goes on and on.

What precisely is it they are missing? The idea that the “people in power” are not accountable discounts the provision of home rule to DC (for better or worse), and the aforementioned Congressional oversight of, and provision to, DC.

And even if one does get wound up about the principle of it all – the Constitutional question remains.

  1. The statute option being pushed by Democrats (and Orrin Hatch) is unconstitutional. If you disagree, fine – but you ignore the text of the Constitution.
  2. To amend the Constitution to simply add a representative for DC – as I suspect the Republicans will foolishly propose in an attempt to prove they care but also show they want to “do it the right way” – is to, as I stated above, undermine the fundamental premise that we built our nation upon the existing sovereign states. The language of the Constitution purposefully and necessarily reflects that fact in its federalist structure. In short – to provide for representation outside of the states is to turn the Constitution on its head.
  3. Retrocession also raises some Constitutional concerns.

My main point about all of this is that Republicans should not seek some solution for the sake of having a solution. This is the “let’s do something” mindset that destroys our nation on a daily basis. They can, and should in contemplating any resolution to this situation, consider the intent of the framers in creating an independent capital city and guaranteeing representation for the citizens of the several states.

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