This past weekend I saw campaign posters for Nelson Rimensnyder who is running for the DC Shadow Senate seat against the incumbent Michael D. Brown (D) and Paul Schwartzman (STG). Mr. Rimensynder’s campaign posters, as seen along 8th St. NE & SE, say “No Vote-No Tax.” His campaign slogan is basically saying (like Congressman Louie Gohmert, R-Tx.) that since we don’t have representation in Congress, like the other territories, we should be exempt from federal income taxes (this does not include social security and Medicare taxes). While this all sounds good he’s essentially throwing in the towel on statehood and saying “My Vote Can Be Bought.”
The “No Vote-No Tax” policy is well intentioned but misguided. I’d bet that the vast majority of us are willing to pay taxes, since we already do, but want equal representation for it just like the founders of our country. What this “No Vote-No Tax” policy would do, first and foremost, would be to further cripple our cause for statehood. We’d have no leverage to advocate for statehood not to mention the other weaker incremental measures advocated for by some. This “No Vote-No Tax” policy would doom us to 212 more years of disenfranchisement. Sadly, at least now we can say like the founders of our country that the current system is unjust and undemocratic. If we were exempted from federal income taxes we’d lose a powerful bargaining chip in the push for statehood.
Fundamentally, this slogan has some merit given the status of the other territories but it really is a bastardization of American democracy and what we want in the District. We want to be a part of policy decisions. We don’t want to just pay social security taxes we want to elect people to be a part of the debate that will guide the program for coming generations. We send our sons and daughters off to war and we want to have elected officials weighing in on whether we should have war or peace. Our laws and the laws of the nation are reviewed by our courts and yet we have no say on who sits on those courts. Mr. Rimensnyder thinks that people are focused solely on ‘taxation’ but not on ‘representation,’ I wholly disagree. I think that the push for statehood is based on a yearning for equality, a thirst to have an equal say and an equal voice, and a passion to step out of the shadows of the Capitol into the halls of it.
A second problem with this misguided campaign slogan is that it could lead to rampant gentrification where even the District’s current growing middle class is pushed out. Presently, this city is a hub for lobbyist and industry bigwigs who often times keep their voter registration and residency elsewhere where their vote matters more. If we exempted District citizens from federal income taxes we’d have a wave of millionaires and billionaires flocking to become District citizens to become exempt from federal income taxes. They’d use their money to influence elections elsewhere and thus this city would become a tax haven for the extraordinarily wealthy. Not only would this be bad for present District citizens who’d be bought out or pushed out it would be terrible for federal coffers. Right now the District contributes $20 billion a year to the federal government in taxes and if income taxes were exempt and a whole new flock of wealthy folks declare residency in the District the federal government would lose a lot more than $20 billion per year.
Mr. Rimensnyder might mean well with his catchy slogan and yes, it is an option for trying to right a wrong but it’s a naïve and dangerous policy, something that all District citizens should reject. There are two clear statehood advocates in the race who are serious about staying focused and committed to the fact that we want and deserve to be full and equal U.S. citizens and statehood is the only way to achieve. Reject this silly “No Vote-No Tax” slogan/policy and stick with those of us who want to be an equal partner in American democracy through the admission of New Columbia as the 51st state in the Union.
Follow on Twitter: @JBurchDC