Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Civics Reminder About Washington, DC

No matter what one thinks are the actual motivations of the Mayor of Washington, DC and several member of the City Council, their arrests yesterday, and the reason that there was a protest following the agreement that prevented a federal government shutdown, will bring back into focus the unique position the District of Columbia is in vis-a-vis the United States Congress.  It's a civics lesson that needs to be explained across the nation, and it's a lesson that will show just how manipulated the residents of the District can be at the hands of some meddlesome members of Congress (as dcist noted in a post about a comment from a GOP House member).

That unique position was often on my mind, when I was a resident of Washington (I will be back).  If I understand the situation correctly, DC is now not allowed to use local (not federal) tax dollars to fund abortions for poor District women who seek them.  Again, we are talking about DC tax dollars for a program that apparently exists only for District residents.  Personally, I think that this was an easy slap at DC for approving marriage equality in the city (though there is still likely a contingent in Congress who would like to try to tackle that too, maybe for the debt ceiling fight or the '12 budget fight).

Simply put, there should be more autonomy for Washington, DC, the non-federal city, particularly with local tax money.  Congress should not have authority over DC tax dollars, and DC programs, that are for DC residents.  If we are talking about what DC does with federal dollars, then there is no question that the Congress has a say.  Just as I don't expect Congress to dictate what happens to Virginia tax revenues and programs, I don't think that Congress should dictate what happens to DC taxes and programs. 

And people need to understand that that is precisely what happens to the city of Washington all too often.

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