Tax Fairness for D.C.
The New York Times, October 30th, 1993
With a population of nearly 600,000, the District of Columbia has more people than Vermont, Wyoming or Alaska. Yet its Mayor and City Council have limited power. And the District is denied a voting representative in the same Congress that rules on its affairs.
The colonial character of this arrangement was underscored this week when Congress voted on the Washington D.C. budget, and grandstanding politicians from other places tried to deny its citizens the right to spend their own money as they see fit.
The District’s budget totaled $3.7 billion. The $3 billion came from District citizens in taxes; all but a tiny fraction of the rest is what the Federal Government pays for occupying 41 percent of the District’s land, on which it pays no taxes. The Federal payment is a miserly sum, given that the Government presence costs the District $2 billion a year in lost tax revenues.
Still, many in government see the District as a pawn in a political game. George Bush once vetoed the city budget, forcing the District to ban the use of even locally raised tax revenues to furnish abortions for impoverished women. C-Span’s broadcast of the District’s budget vote showed the latest act in this political amateur hour.
Representative Dan Burton, Republican of Indiana, seemed not to have read the budget bill but that didn’t deter him. He questioned the salaries of the District’s City Council members, and condemned District voters who chose to return the former Mayor to office as a Councilman. He picked out random lines in the budget and asked the sponsors to explain them. This nitpicking came at the end of a tortuous 18-month process that the District suffers to get its budget.
Congress as usual? Perhaps. But imagine yourself a citizen of the District, with no voting representative in Congress, watching as Congressmen questioned not just the vote you had cast in your city, but your entitlement to tax dollars that you had paid to local government for local use. How angry would you be?
Mr. Burton rationalized his antics by contending that Federal tax dollars were at stake. But the bulk of the budget is D.C. tax money. The Federal payment that makes up the rest is rent, and skimpy rent at that. Congress oversteps in trying to control how its bargain-basement rent is spent. Mr. Burton was performing for the people back home. But what people in Indiana need to see is that their Congressman is trampling on the rights of citizens just like them, all for a little time on camera. No wonder Congress was besieged by District demonstrators agitating for statehood.
It’s hypocrisy that America champions democracy abroad while refusing fair political treatment to the citizens of its own capital.
This newspaper article was obtained from the Congressional Record in the Library of Congress related to H.R. 51, The New Columbia Admission Act of 1993. The article is not in the public domain but is being republished here under the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law in order to continue my advocacy for full representation for the American citizens of the District of Columbia.
A Thank You Note to Muntazer al-Zaidi outside Busboys & Poets
|| 12/15/2008 || 3:17 pm || 2 Comments Rendered || ||
Yesterday President George W. Bush was nearly beaned by two shoes thrown at him by Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi (his first name is also sometimes spelled Montaser, Muntada, Muntather, or Muthathi). Before throwing his second shoe at the president who oversaw the invasion of his country and subsequent deaths of over million Iraqis, he said “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.” In case you missed it, here’s the video:
On a very cold morning in February of 2007 I coordinated the amplified soundsystem at Code Pink‘s “Walk In Their Shoes” press conference on the National Mall. The centerpiece of the press conference was the unveiling of The Empty Shoes of War by Alison Flensburg (right). It’s a large plexiglass box filled with donated shoes from Americans from all over the country. On each shoe contains the name of an Iraqi civilian who has been killed by George W. Bush’s illegal war & occupation of Iraq.
Not soon after the Walk In Their Shoes press conference, the memorial was placed on display outside of Busboys & Poets, an independent bookstore & restaurant located on the corner of V & 14th street in Northwest, Washington, DC (about 5 blocks from my house). The placement of the memorial is significant because the owner of Busboys & Poets, Andy Shallal, is an Iraqi-American from Baghdad and has been against the war before it started.
Last night I was reminded of the shoes in the memorial and conceived the idea of putting up a small guerrilla thank you note as a way to publicly thank al-Zaidi for doing something millions of people around the world would love to do if they were given the opportunity.
#UPDATE# – 15/15/08 – 4pm
After the photos below I’ve added the text of a press release related to a demonstration taking place at the White House on Wednesday.
Below are some of the photos I took before putting up the note: