Washington DC experiences taxation without representation. It’s also missing from rhyming state songs. John Oliver and a group of singing children fix one of these problems.
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America land of the free home of the brave inventor of Chinese food now as you know America is made up of 50 states as a child you may have been forced to learn to sing them in order that is impressive especially especially because that is a difficult song the British version is a little simpler it goes like this England Scotland Northern Ireland Wales and now this song is done I will say the song used to be a lot longer but but of course 50/50 States does not quite tell the whole American story you might remember earlier this year we talked about US territories like Puerto Rico and Guam but there is one other u.s. population which suffers a lack of representation in DC and that's DC itself if you've ever visited you probably noticed that license plates a taxation without representation and that's for a pretty good reason Washington DC isn't like your typical city in America Congress has the final say over its budget and laws and DC does not have full representation on the hill the Chinese pandas at the National Zoo have as much right to representation in the US Congress as any resident in the District of Columbia okay okay but to be fair that is probably for the best we we don't need those pandas participating in representative democracy we need them and we need them to they're in danger the voting rights of mahjongg and Chan Chan can wait right now it's a clock you weird pile chromatic raccoons on steroids take a trip to pound town pronto look you can you can understand why many people in DC are angry because think about it they pay federal taxes and fight in wars and yet have no member of Congress who's able to vote on their behalf even though their population is larger than Vermont and Wyoming and their gross domestic product is higher than that of 16 states and if you think it well isn't this just how countries treat their capital cities it actually isn't we're the only democracy in the world that does this in fact when the Dalai Lama came to visit he wondered why a small pocket of people living in the world's champion of democracy lacked full voting rights calling it quite strange quite strange and it is not good when a guy from Tibet says wow this situation is really undemocratic someone should do something about it does Richard Gere know about this someone should tell him now to be fair DC does have a member of Congress eleanor holmes norton but there are some strict limits on her powers I vote in committee but I cannot do that which every American would believe is emblematic of citizenship and that is vote on the House floor vote on whether your taxes go up or go down vote on whether you go to war or not can't do that so she basically has pretend power like a child watching Dora the Explorer oh yeah Dora took her map out of her backpack because you told her to just just keep believing that your tiny idiots grow up and for more than two decades she's introduced bill after bill to grant DC IVA statehood or a vote in Congress and by the way you do not want to interrupt her while she's arguing for it someone tried eight years ago and it did not work out too well for me you know Graham not during my time to you you would have had your say and your say has been that you think that the people who live in your capital are not entitled to a vote in their house shame on you mr. Smith goes to Washington except she was already in Washington and doesn't have the power to do anything at this point it might be helpful to just take a moment and explain how DC got into this mess back in the late 1700s there was no permanent US Capitol it was just wherever Congress met meaning it was in eight different cities but after Congress was mobbed by veterans demanding back pain the Pennsylvania mutiny of 1793 they decided they needed an enclave under their own control so they added a clause to the Constitution which said that Congress shall have the power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over a federal district which is pretty significant power as far as documents demanding control go it's right up there with the one Christian gray asked Anastasia Steele to sign in 50 shades of grey before he pinched her butts or whatever I haven't seen it for obvious reasons Jamie Dornan was and remains hashtag not my Christian but dc-dc went under federal control in 1801 and it wasn't until the 1960s the DC's then three quarters of a million citizens mostly African African American were given even the most basic electoral rights until 1964 residents could not even vote in presidential elections it took a constitutional amendment to bestow that right a few years later Congress granted limited home rule allowing DC voters to elect a mayor and city council but required all legislation including the city's budget be subject to congressional approval and with that level of restriction the mayor of DC gets to run the city the way a student council president gets to run her high school oh sure Kelsey pick the theme for prom but will control the budget and Eyes Wide Shut is not an acceptable theme we are not having a repeat of last year it was a mess and it was surprisingly boring now to be fair to be fair here Congress very rarely rejects DC's decisions outright which sounds good unfortunately instead they attach so-called riders to DC's appropriations bills stripping out funding for things that they don't like and given that DC is a fairly liberal and diverse City and Congress is frequently neither of those things over the years Congress has repeatedly stepped in whenever DC is about to do something that they might disapprove of for example just last November 70% of Washingtonians voted to legalize possession of marijuana and DC's residents were pretty excited about that this string is a string called mrs. buttersworth it is illegal what you're doing right now very much it won't be illegal tomorrow correct that is correct what is that like to come out of the shadows of the work it's literally for me literally coming out of the closet I can literally take my butt at long last my tents can come out of its profits and the hydroponic plant inside it can proudly say I'm here my side effects include drowsiness the desire to make cloth out of bugles on your fingertips and fear get used to it get to it because I'm here and I look good ok but then Republicans in Congress stepped in and passed a rider forbidding DC from using their funds to enact that law and if you're wondering how that squares with the conservative ethos of limited government and states rights well here is how one of those congressmen justified it well Washington DC is a lot of state and Washington DC has a lot to offer but you know free rein on marijuana use I just don't buy that I just don't think that's that's the way they should operate so states rights yes but Washington DC is not a state you know you have a weak argument when you're clinging to the precise wording you used hey I said I wouldn't any other women this is my squash mate Gary having sex with women no but Gary is not a woman you stay here Gary let her leave now now DC managed to find a loophole that let them in acts that marijuana law anyway but other laws have not been so lucky for nearly a decade Congress successfully blocked DC from using its own tax dollars to fund a needle exchange program to battle the HIV epidemic and one of the men responsible for that Georgia Representative Bob Barr explained why I would also remind our colleagues of a very basic principle if you give people the means to do something and encourage them to do it well for heaven's sake no surprise they will do it okay that is just ridiculous because providing clean needles to drug users is not the same as putting out a bowl of chips and a party no one sees a needle exchange and thinks well I had no intention of ever taking heroin but seeing as you've offered you know what don't mind if I do how I don't want to be rude but but it's a little hard to hear him object to DC funding needle exchanges when you hear a little fact later mentioned by one of his colleagues I trust that mr. mr. Barr is aware that Georgia has a needle exchange program yes Georgia had a needle exchange program too and what's the representative bar think that theirs was for injecting peach cobbler intravenously oh I couldn't eat another bite but I sure as ain't done yet let me ride the peach show let me ride the peach there were consequences to that rider in the nine years that DC was denied its needle exchanges more than 1,500 injection drug users were diagnosed with HIV in the district and interestingly since DC finally funded their needle exchanges in 2008 HIV diagnosis linked to injecting drugs went down by 87 percent because of course they did needle exchanges are always preferable to the alternative try think of needles as bridesmaid dresses anyone who tells you you can reuse them does not have your best interests at heart just eat the $200 and throw it away Cheryl she screwed you she screwed all the girls it seems that Congress just forces riders on DC whenever they disapprove of how they're spending their own money they are treating more than 600,000 people right now like children and in case you think I'm exaggerating listen to Florida Congressman John mica explain why DC should not get full control over their budget well when my kids were young teenagers they always wanted the budget autonomy – so you believe district leaders or children is that what you're saying they're not ready no but they have matured we just don't want regression no no I'm not saying they're children I'm just saying they can't be trusted with money until they learn some responsibility and until then we should give them an allowance you know now that I'm hearing I am calling them children that is that is absolutely what I'm doing but the award for the most depressingly cynical thing that has ever been said about DC actually goes to our current president who in 2011 avoided a government shutdown by striking a deal with John Boehner that included prohibiting DC from spending its own money on abortions for low-income women saying and I quote John I will give you DC abortion are not happy about it and the only time trading away DC abortion would be acceptable is if DC abortion is a rare 1950s comic book and you're getting Marvel's the amazing mammogram in return that is it otherwise that's not great look the people of DC clearly deserve a greater voice in their own affairs and they've actually come tantalizingly close to getting a voting representative in Congress in 2009 a bill to give DC a volt was introduced in the Senate and the Senate did the most dickish thing imaginable passing it but with a little addition well you know they passed a major hurdle today getting this DC voting rights bill through the Senate but not without a highly controversial amendment attached to it this amendment would repeal all of DC's gun control laws oh she's not kidding that amendment would have repealed their ban on semi-automatic weapons removes criminal penalties for unregistered firearms and even altered their ability to enact future gun control legislation it was the kind of amendment NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre dreams about as he sleeps in his bullet filled bathtub I presume as a result of that amendment the bill was dropped and DC has not been close to getting a vote since and the problem is even if they eventually get one Congress could still add riders to mess with DC's laws and that's why many Washingtonians want full statehood but that's probably a long shot because last year Congress held its first hearing on DC statehood in 21 years and the turnout was not encouraging the sad thing was only two members two senators of that committee actually showed up to listen to testimony today that's pathetic yeah it was only two turned up that's not just a pathetic attendance for a hearing on Capitol Hill that would be pathetic for a one-year-olds birthday party really Mikey just your mom and dad you haven't made any other friends in an entire year put yourself out there my kid the world is waiting for you my kid and look whether the fix is a vote or statehood something has to happen the problem is inertia is a really powerful force and opponents might say well we can't grant a DC statehood we'd have to change the Constitution but we could do that the whole point of amendments is to fix things that no longer make any sense it's happened 27 times and Counting others will say well hold on we have to change the flag but we could do that we're sure it would look slightly different but we've been using a 51 star flag for this whole segment and none of you are noticed and yes yes it would probably screw up the songs that we learned as children but we could change those too in fact until DC situation is fixed we've taken the liberty of adding an amendment to that song would you like to hear it boys and girls how're you doing Donna sing a song about the 50 states the inequities inherent in living in our nation's capital kids now specific about the problem it's horrifying but it's true the solution you're totally convinced that there should be just 50 states you