D.C. gets the government it deserves

I’d planned to go into more detail about Wednesday’s hearing weighing the merits of a proposed flat tax experiment in D.C. I would’ve discussed Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s simple-minded objections and the progressive taxation double-standard she wants to perpetuate. Now that I’m writing the post, I’m unmotivated by the specifics of the issue. All sides are interested in ideological sound bites more than intelligent reform.

Instead, I wish Congress would “experiment” with a flat tax for the whole nation, but I’m paying attention enough to see that Congress has shown no will in recent years to address serious tax reform. If it wants to talk a big game about trying an optional flat tax experiment in the District, that’s wonderful. Maybe then we can see some progress back to common sense. Initially, though, it’s not going to affect me because even the flat tax isn’t enough to make me move into the District, to be governed by its incompetent local politicians.

Instead, this quote is interesting:

Shadow senator Paul Strauss (D), who sat in the audience, said, “They think of us as a state when it comes to federal liabilities.”

“When it comes to federal rights,” he added, “they think of us as a laboratory rat.”

Apart from being the first time I realized D.C. has a shadow senator, I’m amused that Mr. Strauss seems not to have read the Constitution. The Constitution says what it says about D.C. and its treatment. And to think Congress will do anything other than treat all of us the District as more than laboratory rats with deep pockets is simply laughable.

But here’s the key point in this debate. If you don’t like it, move. It’s that simple. Like the residents of D.C., I have a choice of where to live in this region. I choose to live in Virginia. I understand there are good and bad aspects of that. I’ve concluded that the benefits outweigh the costs. Unless there’s some nefarious force enslaving people in the District, I fail to see the causal link.

Work to change the Constitution or move.

2 thoughts on “D.C. gets the government it deserves”

  1. Hi there.
    One comment. You say: “…here’s the key point in this debate. if you don’t like it, move.”
    It’s constitutionally true that Congress gets final say over DC fiscal policy. It’s also historically true that this relationship is pretty amorphously defined in practice. When the City Council passed legislation 7 years ago cutting the top income tax rates over time, they were allowed to do it. The Council tweaks sales and property and business taxes one way or another all the time, and does various things to keep the budget balanced (and a lot better than they used to, I’ll note).
    So there’s a sensible practice in place where locals (like locals anywhere else in the US) have a lot of input into what their tax system looks like. They don’t have final say, but they clearly get to come up with ideas and implement them.
    So back to the “key point.” The key here is not that the Constitution allows Congress to impose a new income tax structure, which is clearly very different from anything they’ve imposed on the DC tax system in living memory. The key point is not whether Congress can do this– it’s whether they should. I want to hear you give a constructive explanation for why Congress should depart from the relatively hands-off treatment they’ve given us fiscally and suddenly impose this thing on us that we (probably) can’t democratically change. Even if the Constitution explicitly said that Congress had a duty to prescribe fiscal policy rules for DC, I think it would be a cop-out to say, as you do, “that’s what the rules say.” But when neither rules nor practice suggest that Congress should spend its time imposing new fiscal policy rules on DC residents, your “key point” is an irresponsible cop-out. What I want to hear is why it can possibly be a good idea for Congress to enforce a tax change on DC residents who want no part of it and have no (direct) means of changing it.
    Thanks for your post.

  2. We are doing just that. Check us out and see that we are going to change the rules and get DC out of this historical anachronism.

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