BILL RICE’S CALL FOR maintaining high federal taxes for District residents as a means of achieving self-respect (“A Tax-Free D.C. Means a Less Free D.C.,”11/17) is, in a word, wrong. I pay taxes to the federal government and I pay taxes to the District of Columbia government, and I do not feel as though I am on equal footing with residents of the 50 states. Quite frankly, if I paid less federal taxes I would not care what those other residents felt about me or the District. I am not certain how District residents currently gain the respect of the rest of the nation for paying high federal taxes, high local taxes, and not enjoying full voting representation in Congress.
Rice asserts that if D.C. were relieved of its federal tax burden, “We will become as respected as (and only slightly more important than) the U.S. territories that don’t pay income tax: Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. In effect, District residents will be begging to be unequal.” First, what does “respect” have to do with easing the tax burden for District residents? Most other Americans do not care about U.S. territories, much less have lower feelings of “respect” for them than for, say, residents of Utah, New Jersey, or North Dakota. Second, residents of other U.S. territories themselves do not care what other Americans think of them. For example, a majority of Puerto Ricans do not want Puerto Rico to become a state, largely because they are proud of their own unique culture and heritage. The same is true of Guam and American Samoa. Third, the District is currently no more important than any other U.S. territory. We have no vote in Congress. That is the currency of power and importance in Washington. Tomorrow, Congress (composed of representatives of the 50 states) could increase federal taxes on District residents by 100 percent, completely legally (read Article 1 of the Constitution), and our delegate to Congress would be powerless to stop it. Importance and influence are all about a vote in Congress, not about being dupes begging to pay higher taxes. Unfortunately, that vote in Congress is pure fantasy.
Rice believes that paying high federal taxes will somehow enhance our chances of becoming a state. Last I looked, there was a strong Republican majority in Congress, which will likely continue, at least in the Senate, well into the next century. Statehood, with two voting senators and one representative, is probably not something the Republican majority will be keen on providing to the District, regardless of how much we contribute to the federal treasury. Face it, D.C. statehood is not real, it is dead, kaput.
Now, if Bill Rice seeks respect, he is welcome to pay my federal taxes, and I will give him all the respect he wants. Come on, nobody respects a chump.