OPINION: Grant Washington D.C. Statehood
Recently, The House of Representatives voted to grant The District of Columbia full statehood status. Over the last few years, there has been a rising effort which stems from a lack of proper representation in government. How American. Giving Washington statehood would not only reinforce the fundamental of self determination we were founded upon but would also have lasting implications on America's other territories.
D.C.'s 700,000 residents are effectively second class citizens given their lack of direct voting representation in Congress. Washington has a non-voting delegate in the House and no representation whatsoever on the Senate floor. Similarly, Washington residents claim their payment federal taxes despite their lack of representation is wrong. Per Money Rates, Washington pays both the highest percentage of income taxes at 17.40% and the most total income tax per capita at around $10,517.59. There is a valid reasoning for the high tax rates: Washington has an average salary of $60,435 per adult resident– one of the highest in the nation. There is no justification for a territory which pays so much in taxes not to have a vote in federal affairs.
And while a simple fix to the representation might seem to be granting Eleanor Holmes Norton voting privileges in the House and allowing the District to nominate senators, this wouldn't address the root of the issue: Washington will still not have statehood. Only 30% of Washington's 68.34 square miles are federally owned land, which is more than enough for a capital. James Madison in Federalist 43 argued having the national capital in a state could lead to a conflict of national interests and state interests, which is what we're seeing here with the 700,000 people wishing for a state separate from the nation's capital. Removing all non federally owned land from the capital and reorganizing it into a state separate from federal oversight is therefore the best option.
From a financial standpoint, there is no line of reasoning which supports barring Washington from Statehood. DC Residents pay District taxes which must be first sent to Congress and then back to the District. Not to mention Congress pays for 70% of Washington's Medicaid Costs and the courts system and prison, which together costs nearly half a billion dollars annually. By granting DC Statehood, and giving the state the responsibility of paying for parts of its own court system could easily clear up millions in debt.
Similarly, granting statehood to Washington could open talks about other United States territories receiving the proper representation in Congress, as well as the territories potentially becoming entirely independent from the United States. Puerto Rico, for example, is similar to Washington in the respect of there has been chatter of a potential grant of statehood or a true secession from the United States and the emergence of Puerto Rico as an independent state.
In the end, Puerto Rico and Washington DC most likely will remain territories for the time being given the state of the Senate and the Oval Office. If the Republicans lose control of the Senate and Oval Office, then as soon as 2021 or 2022 the landscape of Congress and the political geography of America as a whole could be vastly different with the addition of Washington's newly found statehood.
Andrew Fielden is an Editor-at-Large for The National Times.