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Jewish World Review March 5, 2001 / 10 Adar 5761

Don Feder

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Statehood for D.C. and Berkeley? -- THE politicians who control our nation's capital and their allies in the Democratic Party are about to try again to make the District of Columbia a state -- an idea that, for sheer stupidity, ranks right up there with medical marijuana, doctor-assisted suicide and reparations for slavery.

Last October, they lost a bid to get congressional representation without statehood by having it bestowed by judicial fiat, when the Supreme Court confirmed a lower-court ruling dismissing their suit. Occasionally, even judges are capable of reading the Constitution.

Article I says Congress shall be composed of members chosen by the "people of the several States." D.C. isn't a state, so its people don't get to choose.

Undaunted, activists are ginning up another drive for "New Columbia." Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district's nonvoting delegate, is expected to file a new statehood bill.

Coming off their performance in Florida's presidential vote, Democrats are prepared to race-bait here, as well. Opponents will be portrayed as Republican racists seeking to prevent a city that's two-thirds black and overwhelmingly Democratic from being represented in Congress.

It's not as if Washington lost representation on the day it became a black city. It never had it, including for most of its history when whites were in the majority.

With an appeal to the Founding Fathers, statehood proponents complain that residents are taxed, but not represented. Not quite. Washington is governed by an elected city council. Thanks to the 23rd Amendment, its citizens vote in presidential elections.

It does lack congressional representation. Statehood forces decry this as colonialism. If so, D.C. residents are subjects by choice. No one is forced to live in the District. If Washingtonians are so keen to vote in congressional elections, they can do so by moving a few miles away to Virginia or Maryland.

The District of Columbia is as qualified for statehood as Rhode Island is for nationhood.

The city has no industry or agriculture. It is wholly dependent on the federal government and tourism. In the 2000 federal budget, it received a direct subsidy of $435 million, over $800 for each resident. I thought colonies were supposed to be exploited by the colonial power, and not the other way around.

Los Angeles and New York City don't get their own senators, so why should a city many times smaller? And, unlike Washington, the latter have an existence apart from government.

Washington is a company town. A high proportion of residents rely on government, federal or local, for their incomes. Municipal government comes super-sized. In 1997, L.A. had 134 city employees per 100,000 population. Washington had more than five times that number.

In 1982, the city's voters approved a proposed state constitution for New Columbia by better than a 60 percent margin. The document guaranteed a job or income to every resident, provided for a right to abortion through the ninth month and banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

It proved such an embarrassment to statehood proponents that it was replaced in 1987 by a constitution bearing less of a resemblance to the platform of the Socialist Workers Party.

Still, the '82 charter reflects the city's mindset.

If the district were a state, Democrats would now control the Senate by a two-vote margin. Its congressional delegation -- probably composed of statesmen like Jesse Jackson (formerly its "shadow senator") and ex-Mayor Marion Berry when he isn't in rehab -- would make Massachusetts' delegation look like a DAR convention. Statehood would be two senators and one congressman in perpetuity for the hard left of the Democratic Party.

After conferring statehood on the district's 523,000 residents, perhaps we should dole out senators to Madison, Wisc., Berkeley, Calif., Cambridge, Mass., and the Haight-Asbury section of San Francisco.

If you're still not convinced of the dumbness of this proposal, Bill Clinton believes it's a swell idea. "I think you should have the rights and powers and responsibilities that statehood carries," Clinton told city leaders on Jan. 15. Based on past performance, they would probably act as responsibly as he did.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.


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© 2001, Creators Syndicate