Taxation without Representation - Today

By Vradenburg, George | Tikkun, July/August 2007 | Go to article overview

Taxation without Representation - Today


Vradenburg, George, Tikkun


WHEN I WAS A KID GROWING UP in a small town in Colorado, the 4th of July meant fireworks-from big rockets to sparklers-and lots of excitement and fun with family and friends. But, every year at the end of the fun and food somebody, usually my Dad, would say a few words about freedom and opportunity-how much we should value a country where eveiyone had the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labor to achieve the American dream.

My Dad's 4th of July toast to America echoed the rallying cry of the revolutionary movement: "no taxation without representation." Since the legitimacy of government was derived from the people, surely the people should consent to having the fruits of their labor taxed to support the common good. Absent that most fundamental civil right, violent overthrow of the offending political regime was warranted.

Remarkably, this basic civil right is still denied today to hundreds of thousands of citizens of our country.

My wife and 1 live in the District of Columbia, our nation's capital, where we do not have voting representation in Congress. Imagine. As a result of the sacrifice of a lot of young men and women of this and other countries, the citizens of Baghdad have voting representation in their parliament, yet the citizens of our nation's capital do not.

This situation came about early in our country's history. In 1790, Virginia and Maryland ceded to the United States a ten-square-mile parcel of land for the seat of the new Federal government. In 1800, the Federal government assumed sovereignty over this area of land pursuant to the Constitutional authority "to exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever" in the new "District of Columbia." Between 1790 and 1800 the residents of the District voted in their respective States as a result of federal legislation, but when the Federal government assumed direct control in 1800, no voting representation was provided in the legislation proriding for federal sovereignty.

Fast forward to today. The District of Columbia is now home to nearly 600,000 people, a population roughly comparable to that of eight states. As a result of "home rule" legislation adopted by Congress, the District now has a fully functioning elected government that assumes the responsibilities of both a "state" (e.g., Medicaid, education standards, motor vehicle registration) and a "city" (e.g., street maintenance, garbage removal, zoning and land use). …

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