Taxation without Representation and Representation without Taxation

December 29, 2010

Republicans are predictable.  For the next two years they will block key legislation, blame Democrats, whine (or cry if it's speaker-elect John Boehner), and attack those who disagree with them. So it should be no surprise that they voted to strip the Congressional Delegates from having floor votes.

Under the Democratic majority in the 111th Congress, the Congressional Delegates in the House - those from Washington, DC, the CNMI, Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands -  could cast a vote when the chamber was meeting as a "Committee of the Whole." They could vote only on amendments to tax and spending bills, but they could not be the deciding vote.  The has been a federal court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the vote.

The Republicans who will now control the House in the 112th Congress have published proposed rules that will prohibit the Delegates from voting on the floor of the chamber. Delegates can vote in their respective committees, but only full Members of the House can vote on a bill's final passage on the floor.

Why would the Republicans make such a move? The Delegates are, and have traditionally been, overwhelmingly Democrats, or as in the case of Congressman Sablan, an Independent affiliated with the Democrats.

From the Washington Examiner:
"You would have thought," Holmes tells me, "that our Republican friends, for whom taxes mean everything, would have thought twice before stripping District taxpaying residents of their vote."

They thought, all right. They saw a city that is bluer than the ocean on a sunny day and said: Merry Christmas to us and no vote for you!

And I am fully aware that the District of Columbia does quite well by the federal government, on the money side. We are a government town; legislation and governing are our industries. We receive more millions from the government than we contribute in taxes, but that's fair because we provide a home for the seat of power.

But as a matter of political power in a democratic society, we District residents get screwed. Under the Constitution, we are a federal district under the control of Congress and the White House. We have limited local self-government by a mayor and city council. Congress has ultimate say.

That's why a loss of voting rights is such a punch in the gut.

"This was a shot across our bow," Norton says. "We will have to be ready for the worst -- and we are."
Washington, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton stands apart from the other Delegates in that the residents of the territories do not pay federal income taxes, but Washington, DC residents do.  And there are more residents living in Washington, DC then there are living in Vermont or Wyoming, states that have representation and votes in Congress. Delegate Norton claims that it is a case of taxation without representation. I agree with her.  It's time that Washington, DC residents be represented by a member with full voting rights.

Congresswoman Norton, and a group called DC Votes, will lead an effort to lobby for full voting rights for the DC Delegate on January 4th.

There should be a discussion on this issue, and it should include the suggestions that territories start paying at least a share of federal income tax. The taxpayers in the states carry the burden of funding the territories that receive billions of dollars in federal funds, but pay no federal income taxes.

Maybe some of the abhorrent waste of federal funds witnessed in the CNMI is due to the fact that the residents have no financial commitment to the government. CNMI residents pay no federal income taxes, no CNMI income taxes, no sales taxes, and yet expect to be perpetually funded and see that funding grow.  Sorry, as a federal taxpayer who is disgusted by waste of federal funds in the states and in the territories, I say it's time to grow and take that hand that has been out for decades reaching for a handout from the federal government, and place it in your pocket to come up with at least a token amount of federal income taxes to help pay your way.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maybe there is no money in the CNMI to pay federal income taxes now, but when the economy picks up yes, we should pay. The free ride has to end sometime. Better to pay taxes and have a vote.

Anonymous said...

The Republicans, especially Michael Steele, cannot care less about the territories. He only wants their votes for his (losing) chance for another term as chairman.

Anonymous said...

CNMI residents pay no CNMI income taxes? How's that?