Taxation Without Representation in the Presidential Limo?

by January 14, 2013 at 9:00 am 0

From Kathryn Ciano. Follow her on Twitter @katciano. Email her at  kathryn[AT]


U Street Mural by Aniekan Udofia. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Since America’s early days, Washington, DC was never meant to be a place of permanent residence. The founding fathers imagined that politicians would come to DC only temporarily to serve their terms, but that the capital city would never be a comfortable or welcoming place for people to settle.

The U.S. Constitution established this “federal town” right in the middle of the Great Dismal Swamp, for goodness sakes — voting rights were meant to be the least of DC residents’ problems.

Fast forward to today. The Congressional members collectively charged with taking care of our federal town do a fine job much of the time, and DC has become a pretty great place to call home. But too often, representation in DC is a classic tragedy of the commons.

In 2005, the city received $5.50 in federal spending for every dollar paid in federal taxes; more than double what any actual state receives. Yet I can’t get the DC post office to stop the mail forward I requested temporarily over a year ago, and District Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton won’t even respond to my phone, email, or website submission pleas to help me address the problem.

Whether or not you believe DC statehood is the answer, it’s worth talking about the fact that DC’s approximately 632,323 residents — more than Vermont or Wyoming — pay the highest federal taxes every year per person, and have lost more servicemen and women in our nation’s wars than many states, yet they lack voting representation in Congress. Read great discussions of the statehood debate herehere, and here.

More urgently, sign the petition by January 18, to encourage President Obama to install DC “Taxation Without Representation” license plates on his inaugural limo, an important step to awareness of District residents’ civil rights the president stubbornly refused to take during his first term.

In November 91 percent of DC voters came out to support President Obama’s reelection, including standing in freezing lines late into the night to cast their votes. The least the President can do is support our right to vote on how our tax dollars are spent, which we currently have no right to do.

In fact, as Social Security and Medicare taxes rise after this month’s fiscal cliff deal, even individuals earning $30-40,000 will see an average tax increase of $445 annually. (Check out what the 2013 bill will do to your taxes at the nonpartisan Tax Foundation’s 2013 tax calculator here.)

DC Vote spokesman James Jones says of this effort to urge the president to bring attention to the city’s longstanding second-class status by installing the plates:

“This is an opportunity for the people of D.C., and for supporters of our fight for full democracy everywhere, to elevate our struggle to a new level. We are very grateful for President Obama’s support for our struggle for equal rights. He has stated publicly that we should have the same voting rights as every other American. Displaying the Taxation Without Representation plate is simply an expression of the truth about D.C.’s political status.”

That’s the thing about taxation. Government isn’t just a name for something we all do together; it’s supposed to be a way to pool our resources to cover “public goods” — people and programs we all agree to help, that individuals or corporations can’t as easily fund themselves. But in the District, politicians’ blatant abuse of tax dollars is so often a scandal that ABC simply turns it into a slideshow — and we can’t even vote for change.

Currently the petition to install “Taxation Without Representation” plates on the inaugural limo has only 3,202 signatures (as of January 10). The White House has promised to formally address this movement only if the petition can get 25,000 votes by January 18. Sign the petition to support this tongue-in-cheek statement in favor of civil liberties and individual rights today!

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