Free D.C.

What an irony. Lincoln freed the slaves. We fought a war of independence to ensure the principle of “one man, one vote”. And yet here it is 228 years after our independence and the residents of the District of Columbia are still our nation’s serfs. Yes this may be news to some of you but DC residents still have no voting representative in Congress. It can pass all the internal laws it wants to but Congress can retroactively overturn any of them. And Congress does overturn its laws regularly and seems willing to do so again real soon.

The latest outrage is that prominent members of Congress from Northern Virginia, including my own Congressman Frank Wolf are threatening to overturn any law DC passes on allowing slot machines.

Congress will halt any attempt to bring slot machines to the nation’s capital if a referendum is placed on the November ballot and approved by voters, two influential members predicted yesterday.

Northern Virginia Republican Reps. Frank R. Wolf, chairman of a U.S. commission that recommended a national moratorium on gambling in 1999, and Thomas M. Davis III, chairman of the Government Reform Committee, delivered a clear signal to colleagues and D.C. officials that the unfolding voter initiative faces opposition in Congress, whatever its fate in the District.

“Under no circumstances do I think gambling should come to the District of Columbia, period,” said Wolf, a House Appropriations subcommittee chairman.

“Can you see coming to see Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, President Kennedy’s grave, the Washington Monument, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, and first we go by the Lucky Five gambling casino? It would be horrible,” Wolf said.

Davis said that he does not want slots in the District and that “members are not going to want to vote for slot machines in the nation’s capital.”

Now as readers may recall I voiced my opinion on this issue. I don’t like the idea of slot machines in DC. I think they are a bad idea for the District. I hope if the issue comes up for a vote its citizens are wise enough to say no to this very bad idea. But I am not a resident of D.C. I live in Northern Virginia. And as bad an idea as I think it is, it would never cross my mind to pick up the phone and urge my congressman to have Congress overturn the will of the residents of the District of Columbia. To me representative government is sacrosanct. But not for Congress — it just loves to mess with DC.

The time has long passed for Congress to end its feudal-like control over the District. When I think of reasons why DC is so impoverished and crime is so high, I think its roots can be traced to the simple fact that residents of DC are not enfranchised. Everyone else in America is. It is true that residents of U.S. territories and commonwealths, such Puerto Rico, don’t have representation in Congress either. But unlike DC residents, members of our commonwealths are allowed to manage their own affairs and make their own laws. Lawmakers in the DC government must always look over their shoulders and hope Big Brother (Congress) doesn’t get mad.

Indeed the residents of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico at least get a dividend for not having a representative in Congress: they don’t pay federal taxes. That’s not true of DC residents. They must pay their share of federal taxes. They have the same burdens of any citizen of the United States, including having to serve their country in time of war. They just don’t get any real voting privileges for their alleged citizenship except for voting in presidential elections. Indeed their supposed “home rule” is a veneer at best. Congress can take it away by simply repealing the law.

It is way past time for equity to the residents of the District of Columbia. The solution isn’t rocket science. Create a small contiguous federal area around the Mall to be exclusively managed by the federal government. It should have no residents. Then give the citizens of D.C. at least one representative in the House of Representatives proportional to their population. It would be magnanimous if the residents had at least one Senator too, but that may be too much to ask since the District is not a state. Repeal the part of the U.S. Constitution giving Congress the right to manage the affairs of the District of Columbia. It was written at a time when the District was merely a tract of land and its inhabitants were Native Americans. It is now a real city full of U.S. citizens who pay taxes and serve their country. That we haven’t given DC residents true representation is shameful.

If for some bizarre reason Congress can’t do the obviously fair thing then the least they can do is repeal federal income taxes for DC residents. Maybe the extra cash in their pocket will be some small compensation for their obvious second-class status.

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