Another Approach to D.C. Voting Rights
Paul Goldman, one of Virginia's leading political gurus and a longtime adviser to former Gov. Doug Wilder, has an idea about a new approach to gaining D.C. voting rights. I'm not sure I buy it, but Goldman, former chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party, often knows what political strategies might work. Here, on the morning when a new mayor launches his administration, is Goldman's take on the injustice that never seems to go away:
" Taxation without representation" is the slogan on District of Columbia license plates. For the Democrats in control of DC, the issue is seen as one of electoral fairness.
Right principle, wrong era. The unfairness of such a situation was self-evident to John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and even John Marshall.
Right principle, wrong principals. They could talk the talk. But in their day, women couldn't vote, the same for all but a small minority of African-Americans. Sizeable numbers of white males were also without the franchise for various reasons.
Truth is, "taxation without representation" was anti-British slogan, not a statement of future constitutional principle. For sure, a London-imposed Tea Tax was unfair. But 266 years later, today's American is not sure "taxation with representation" is necessarily better. At last count, we had a federal income tax, an alternative minimum tax, social security tax, self-employment tax, capital gains tax, medicare tax, estate tax, gas tax, cable tax, phone tax, airline tax, and many other taxes labeled as fees.
We also have a huge federal deficit, a record national debt, trillions of dollars of projected short-falls in Social Security and Medicare, and the most pampered political elites in the history of democratically elected legislatures. So with all due respect, the leaders of the District of Columbia might do better to forget the Reverend Jonathan Mayhew, James Otis and the talk of representation and tyranny.
Right principle, wrong focus. Think taxes, not electoral fairness. Forget "guilt". Think "greed" as Gordon Gecko would have said in the movie "Wall Street."
There is an easy 3 step process to get the American people to demand that their state legislatures enact a constitutional amendment giving DC voting rights:
Step 1. Upon the convening 207th Session of Congress, House Democrats should pass a law eliminating all federal taxation in the District of Columbia this coming July 4th. Unless, of course, 3/4 of our state legislatures have ratified a Constitutional amendment giving DC a voting representative in Congress.
The other 300,000,000 million Americans can hardly complain. The choice will be for their elected state representatives to make. Once passed by the House, the bill will go to the US Senate.
Step 2. 49 Republicans Senators are not going to filibuster this bill; quite the opposite. They will support the bill, but insist on an additional provision: the alternative minimum tax will be eliminated if DC gets voting rights. The AMT is one of the most hated taxes in America, increasingly being paid by the most powerful group of swing voters in the country.
Step 3. House and Senate Democrats want to keep their new Congressional majorities. So they will join with the GOP to pass the Yes DC/No AMT legislation. President Bush is against giving DC voting rights. He may be stubborn on Iraq. But watch him do a 180.
He will not only sign the bill. But the President will sign it underneath a big "Mission Accomphlised" banner hanging from the windows of the Texas State Legislature in Austin. Before the ink is dry. the Texas legislature will be the first to ratify the XXVIII constitutional amendment giving DC the right to elect a member of the House of Representatives.
Every other state lawmaker will have the same two options: 1) Oppose the DC voting rights amendment. Politically, this will be seen as supporting elimination of federal taxes for DC residents while imposing a hated tax on their own constituents.
Or 2) Support the DC voting rights amendment. Politically, this will be seen as eliminating a tax hated by the most important swing voting bloc in the country and correcting a flaw in our democratic system.
Easy choice, hard lesson in reality. Eliminating the alternative minimum tax will save Americans about 1 trillion dollars over the next ten years. Conversely, it will increase the projected federal budget deficit by the same amount.
Taxation with representation. Or no taxation but no vote either.
DC politicians say they want taxation the former as a matter of principle. Yet the single vote in the House amounts to 1/4 of 1% of the total membership. The mathematical odds of this one vote blocking something DC residents don't want, or getting them something they do want, is extremely small.
This is why we have a US Senate: otherwise, small states like Delaware would never have voted to ratify the Constitution. So DC leaders should not be surprised if their constituents would actually prefer no-tax option. Imagine the irony. After all these years, the Yes DC/No AMT strategy will finally get Texas and the other 49 states working speedily to get DC voting right.
Yet secretly, the residents of the nation's capitol may be hoping in vain that the constitutional amendment would not pass. One vote, a dozen taxes. How would you choose?
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