By Howard Black
For the second session in a row, the US House of Representatives voted along party lines to make the District of Columbia a state. Rumor has it that the District then decided not to have a state bird because they could not find one with two left wings. Regardless, a move to make D.C. a state is curious. First, it only ranks as the 20th largest city in the country. If I were a voter in any of the 19 larger cities, I would be furious if my representative voted for D.C. statehood rather than statehood for my own city. Why should D.C. be a state when New York City has 10 times more residents? One Georgia representative said that if D.C. were a state, it would be the only one “without an airport, without a car dealership, without a capital city and without a landfill.” Social media went ballistic saying that D.C. did indeed have car dealerships (they did not mention the absence of the airport or landfill). CNN crowed that “D.C. does have car dealerships, as a Google search or visit to the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles website — or perhaps a leisurely drive around town — would have shown.” After being ridiculed in the media and on the House floor, the Georgia representative said “If there’s a car dealership in D.C., I apologize for being wrong — I have no idea where it is.”
Well I lived in D.C. for over 10 years and I have no idea where the dealership is either. I don’t remember a single new car dealership in the city. Sure, there were plenty of used car lots but no new dealerships. I did the Google search and there was a Buick dealership listed on Wisconsin Avenue. Then I went to the DMV website. The only new car dealers listed were in Maryland and Virginia. The rest were used car lots. So the statement should be amended to say that D.C. would be the only state with used car lots and no new car dealerships.
What is interesting about the vote for D.C. statehood is that all the Democrats voted in favor. This is another example of how our politics have changed. In 1993, 105 Democrats voted against a similar bill, four of whom are still in the Congress. Tennessee’s Jim Cooper is one of the four. His constituents should be asked if they support his change of heart and why didn’t he advocate statehood for Nashville?
However, one fact that has been ignored is that if D.C. were given a seat in the House, then one current representative (likely a Democrat) must lose a seat. This is because the size of the House is set in stone by the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929 at 435. Surely, unless the D.C. statehood act were accompanied by an increase in the size of the Congress, such a move would be illegal (as well as unconstitutional).
Why should D.C. be a state? I went to the city’s website to see if I could find the rationale (https://statehood.dc.gov/page/why-statehood-dc). Basically the argument is taxation without representation. Indeed, the District has no representation in the Senate and a non-voting delegate in the House. However, unbeknownst to many, the 23rd Amendment gives the District three electoral votes in presidential elections. So the taxation without representation argument is not entirely correct. Now I am assuming that the District residents know all of this yet continue to live with this burden. If they really felt strongly they would move to either Maryland or Virginia. Many have. When I lived in the District the population was larger and shrank as residents fled to the suburbs. It was said that Maryland’s Prince George’s County was the favorite refuge for the black D.C. middle class and is now home to one of the wealthiest black communities in the country. Recently the District has begun growing albeit at a slower rate each year.
I have a modest proposal. Why not have the city’s mayor announce that until D.C. becomes either a state or is given a vote in the House and two in the Senate, that the District residents will withhold their taxes from the Federal government? This would be in the tradition of colonial America (which probably condemns the idea as being racist) which was derived from the English Bill of Rights of 1689. I’ve always wondered that if the British had granted the colonies representation in the Parliament whether there would have been a Revolutionary War. Incidentally, the author of my favorite book of all time – Adam Smith – did propose colonial representation but was rejected.
Another modest proposal is much milder and less revolutionary. The columnist Deroy Murdock has suggested that Congress exempt all District residents from paying Federal income taxes, meaning a boost in disposable income of $6.7 billion for District residents. As he states, it would be no taxation and no representation. Murdock envisions that Americans would “flock to D.C. to keep more of their hard- earned money. D.C. would blossom into Singapore on the Potomac.”
The advantage of Murdock’s proposal over mine is that no one would likely go to jail, although given the screams of “racism” I doubt if Joe Biden would order the arrest of the D.C. mayor and her constituents.
Speaking of the president, I was told that when he was asked to give his address to the Congress, he replied “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”