Written by Prabhav Kamojjhala
“Taxation without representation”.
Sound familiar? That’s probably because it’s what the license plate of Washington D.C. says – a testament to the systematic disenfranchisement that the city has faced. As Representative Norton (D- DC) and Mayor Muriel Bowser rally behind yet another round of hearings for D.C. statehood both the moral and economic cases for D.C. Statehood seem to be ever growing.
For over two hundred and twenty years, the nation’s capital has had little, if any, say over both national and local affairs. The first time the city ever got to even vote in a presidential election was in 1964 – almost nearly 170 years after the city was established. For a country that saw movements such as the Boston Tea party, the current ignorance of those who live in our national capital is at best soft colonialism.
Some members of the house would probably disagree with this viewpoint. After all, Sen. McConnell had quite boldly argued that granting recognition to over 700,000 Americans was “full-bore socialism.” Rhetoric aside, problems do exist with the proposal.
Many in congress have suggested that Washington D.C. is simply too corrupt to be a state, with Rep Jordan (R-OH) even requesting that Jack Evans – a DC council member accused of corruption – be called as a witness in Statehood hearings with regards to the same. This argument is essentially just fear mongering – if every state that has ever had problems with corruption was stripped of its representation in Congress, residents from Chicago to Charlotte would have cause for concern. The idea that having problems with corruption somehow makes the voices of the residents who must suffer its consequences is about as valid as saying that everyone who’s ever gotten on the wrong train is too irresponsible to ride the subway.
The real problem with D.C. statehood lies in the question of how the city is financed – with over $1 Billion in funds from the federal government for various programs such as Medicaid. While the steps for disentangling would require a transitory phase, D.C. is predominantly funded through locally collected tax. A 2011 study by the D.C. Financial Policy Institute revealed that roughly 26% of the state’s funding came from the Federal Government. Neighboring state Maryland for the fiscal year 2019 had roughly 29% of its funds come from the federal government – a clear sign that a dependency on federal funds may not be a deciding factor in D.C.’s future.
The case for D.C. Statehood makes economic sense – with a GDP per capita 40% higher than the national average (as of 2015), the District of Columbia has the potential to combat issues specific to its urban areas.
The case for D.C. statehood also makes political sense. The state has a higher population than Wyoming and Vermont but has no voice in Congress and no voice in the Senate. Granting D.C. Statehood would essentially allow the district’s lone representative to vote on issues in the federal government and add two senators, all of which would go a long way in giving under-represented minorities a larger voice in the national decision-making progress.
Put simply, the question of D.C. statehood has no real reason to be a question. The Nation’s capital has stayed quiet for too long. It’s time to hear its voice.