I’ve lived in Washington, DC for almost two and a half years, but only this past weekend, as Congress approved a budget which included a ban for the District to use its own funding to pay for abortion services for poor women, did the absurdity and cruelty of DC’s status become clear. The budget bill included a provision that makes a special application of the federal ban of money being used to fund abortion. DC’s budget, even with money raised from its own taxes and not from federal funds, must currently be approved by Congress. And this Congress has said that not only can no federal dollars go to pay for abortion in DC, but none of DC’s money can be used to pay for abortion services for poor District citizens.
License plates in DC carry the slogan, “Taxation without representation,” and clearly this is the system we live under. But the cruelty of the structure is not merely about the quid pro quo the rest of America makes with our government (taxes in exchange for how those taxes are spent). DC is, at the end of the day, a colony of the United States, and we live at the whims of a Congress in our own back yard.
There’s been talk in recent years of giving DC a representative with full voting rights in the House of Representatives, often pairing this addition with a new congressional district in reliably Republican Utah. But even this would be to treat DC like a colony, with sub-standard rights when it comes to representation. Either DC needs to be given full statehood – and the accompanying representation in the Senate – or DC should be merged into Maryland, our contiguous geographic neighbor. While full statehood for DC is probably the most appealing and straightforward solution, at the end of the day, the necessity for a particular cure of the current colonial system is more important than the particular solution which is used to treat it. If Maryland will take us, fine. If statehood is achievable as the state of Columbia, great. But what we currently have must end and fast.
For what it’s worth, a while back Matt Yglesias mocked up a simple map of how you could give DC statehood, while still carving out the constitutionally required federal district around the White House, Capitol, the Mall and most federal buildings. It would include essentially no residential areas and certainly end the current situation where DC has a larger population than the state of Wyoming. Ygelias’ rough map:
My hope is that the absurdity and the cruelty of the recent budget bill – an outright attack on the rights of poor women in DC – is enough to engender wide support in Democratic circles for DC statehood. The current situation is a blight on our national conscience and an affront to our Founding Fathers’ memory as patriots who fought against unfair taxation and non-representative colonialism.