November 11th in Washington, DC

November 11th in Washington DC

The U.S. Congress taxed them. Congress declared war and sent them to serve. Some were wounded and some died defending our country, all without representation in that same U.S. Congress. Who are they? The citizens of the District of Columbia who have served in our armed forces.

Meet DC’s veterans today, Veteran’s Day, Noon to 1:30 PM, at Upper Senate Park, Delaware and Constitution Avenues, NE, near the Russell Senate Office Building, between the Capitol and Union Station. Join themas they rally for the DC Vote.

There’s a flyer (DC Vets– download your Orders of the Day).

If you live somewhere else, honor these brave men and women — tell your Senators and Congressman to support the D.C. Voting Rights Act, which gives DC one single vote in the House of Representatives.

But the Constitution reserves Congressional representation to states, and DC isn’t a state.

The U.S. Constitution was drawn up and ratified before anybody thought about building a new Capital City. When written, the Constitution guaranteed voting representation in Congress for every U.S. citizen then living (though, sadly, only white men) because at that point in time every U.S. citizen lived in a state. The founders had risked death for the principle that “taxation without representation is tyranny.” Can any sane person believe they would intentionally approve taxing (let alone drafting) citizens while denying them a single vote in Congress?

Why didn’t Congress specify representation when it passed the law creating the District of Columbia?

The bill creating the District was a “sweetener” in the Compromise of 1790, a political deal. Congress was obsessed with the assumption of the Revolutionary War debts of the individual states by the Federal government, a move opposed by southern states. A measure creating the District on the Maryland-Virginia border was thrown in to placate the South, and no one really thought about how to make a city, how to fund or govern it, or how interests of residents would be protected in Congress. Congress left the details to a local guy, George Washington. Sad to say, he forgot about voting rights, too.

How come Congress didn’t fix this earlier?

Why would they? Congress only spent three or four months a year in Washington, and members could put up with the chaos they had created here for that long (it just gave them one more thing to bitch about). DC residents didn’t elect anyone to Congress, so no members spoke up for them, and why would sitting members dilute the power of their own votes by adding another? Justice? Fairness? Consistency? Ethics? We’re talking about Congress here, where partisan politics influences everything. Presidents from Andrew Jackson on tried to get Congress to give DC representation. Congress just didn’t care; it was much easier to blame the victims, the people of Washington. After a while, Congressional neglect was re-interpreted as “precedent.”

What about Puerto Rico and the Trust Territories? Should they have votes?

U.S. citizens there do not pay individual Federal income taxes to the IRS. DC citizens do. U.S. citizens of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Trust Territories have defended our country with bravery; let us honor and remember those veterans tomorrow as well.

Doesn’t the U.S. government pay most of the expenses for running DC?

No. Until recently, Congress even told the DC government how it could spend its own locally-raised taxes. Federal buildings and foreign embassies do not pay local property taxes, nor do hundreds of nonprofit organizations located here (including the IMF and World Bank). State governments are more realistic in compensating governments of state capital cities for these kinds of issues through PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes).

Come out and honor Washington’s veterans at Noon. Live elsewhere? Honor DC Vets by telling your Senators and Congressmen to support the D.C. Voting Rights Act. Find out more at DC Vote.

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here.Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com.

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