Those of us in favor of Statehood for the residential and commercial portions of the District of Columbia have long viewed our present status is that of a colony in the American Empire. We are taxed without representation, we are governed without giving the national legislature our consent, and we have numerous laws and policies imposed on us without consultation. The original Tea Partiers should be turning over in their graves and the modern-day Tea Partiers should be lining up to join the Statehood movement (but they aren’t for reasons based on their ideological and intellectual inconsistencies).
Earlier today, when President Obama released his 2013 budget, our colonial status was fairly evident. Mike DeBonis in the Washington Post points to the paragraph in the Presidents Budget package to demonstrate that Mr. Obama continues to do the bare minimum to make us feel listened too but fails to take concrete actions or make strong statements on our behalf. Here’s what the President says about DC budget autonomy:
“The District of Columbia annually receives direct Federal payments for a number of local programs in recognition of the District’s unique status as the seat of the Federal Government. These General and Special Payments are separate from and in addition to the District’s local budget, which is funded through local revenues. Consistent with the principle of home rule, it is the Administration’s view that the District’s local budget should be authorized to take effect without a separate annual Federal appropriations bill. The Administration will work with Congress and the Mayor to pass legislation to amend the D.C. Home Rule Act to provide the District with local budget autonomy.”
Sounds good, don’t it? But to dig a little deeper through the haze of nice promises we need to realize that there’s no budget autonomy bill within his budget. He’s simply saying that budget autonomy is a nice idea and the Administration would like to work with Congress on it. The administration could have said that as part of the HHS spending bill they wanted to include a provision that would free up the District’s local budget from review but they didn’t. The administration once again tried to look good toward the District without doing one single thing meaningful on our behalf. I am Statehood supporter because Statehood gets us autonomy and full representation in Congress while all these other legislative measures (voting rights, autonomy, full representation, etc.) are all half steps and all revocable by an act of Congress whereas Statehood is permanent. I wish given the President’s weak statement on autonomy he had at least made the statement about Statehood as I’d rather a weak statement about our end goal than a weak statement about a half-step measure that could get revoked by the next Congress.
About a month ago I heard Mark Plotkin on the radio say that someone should run against the President in the District’s Democratic Primary in April as a protest candidate against his weak leadership on our behalf. I think based on the actions of today and his inactions over the last 3 years those of us who want to break the colonial chains should write-in an alternative candidate and stop blindly supporting folks who talk a good game because these days we need substance. If as former House Speaker Tip O’Neill used to say ‘all politics is local,’ then what has President Obama done for us locally…the answer is sadly, nothing meaningful and certainly nothing substantive. We can’t vote for anyone in Congress but we can vote for President and we should be sure to vote for someone who really demonstrates the heart, mind, and action needed to get us to full and equal citizenship through Statehood.