Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Can't have "Taxation without Representation"? How about "Bitch Set MeUp"?

As some of you amateur numismatist know, the 50 state commemorative coin program was extended to the District of Columbia and other American territories. This is very exciting. We finally get the recognition that the rest of the states get.

Two days ago, the DC team submitted three commemorative coin design proposals. The first proposal is one that bears the stars and bars of the District's flag, another the image of abolitionist and inventor Benjamin Banneker, and a third the image of legendary jazz musician Duke Ellington. All of them have the "Taxation Without Representation" slogan written on them.

The US Mint has the design criteria.
Designs shall maintain a dignity befitting the Nation's coinage.

Designs shall have broad appeal to the citizens of the state and avoid controversial subjects or symbols that are likely to offend.

Suitable subject matter for designs include state landmarks (natural and man-made), landscapes, historically significant buildings, symbols of state resources or industries, official state flora and fauna, state icons (e.g.. Texas Lone Star, Wyoming bronco, etc.), and outlines of the state.
Consistent with the authorizing legislation, the states are encouraged to submit designs that promote the diffusion of knowledge among the youth of the United States about the state, its history and geography, and the rich diversity of our national heritage.

Inappropriate design concepts include, but are not limited to logos or depictions of specific commercial, private, educational, civic, religious, sports, or other organizations whose membership or ownership is not universal.
[emphasis mine] DCist covers the reaction to the coin and it all isn't very positive. Both the Washington Post and an online coin enthusiast panned it. I love it!

The Mint lays out a clear 7-step Selection Process. And it took nearly 24 hours for the Mint to reject DC's quarter, making it the only design rejected.
The United States Mint has notified District of Columbia officials that their proposal to include the inscription "Taxation Without Representation" does not comply with the law that authorizes the D.C. commemorative quarter-dollar coin.

Changing how the District of Columbia (the Seat of Government of the United States) is represented in Congress is a contemporary political issue on which there presently is no national consensus and over which reasonable minds differ.

Although the United States Mint expresses no position on the merits of this issue, we have determined that the proposed inscription is clearly controversial and, therefore, inappropriate as an element of design for United States coinage.

So much is wrong with this, let's begin.

First, "Taxation Without Representation" is a vital and important idea that helped launch the American Revolution. It is non-partisan, historical and arguably, more important to America's history than the already approved "Live Free or Die" from New Hampshire. In fact, it isn't even controversial. US citizens in the District of Columbia don't have representation in Congress and are obligated to pay taxes. Is "Taxation without Representation" nearly as controversial as "In God We Trust"?

If the motto was "give DC the vote" that would be controversial, but that's not the suggestion. Taxation without Representation is a historical rallying point for our nation and a fact of life for District residents.

Why not contact the US Mint and tell them they are wrong?

If you don't understand the title of the post, go see former mayor Marion Barry on YouTube.

UPDATE: DC has floated a new design and "city officials will likely keep two of the proposed designs -- abolitionist Benjamin Banneker and jazz legend Duke Ellington -- while retiring the proposal for the stars and bars of the District's flag. And replacing the oh-so-controversial 'Taxation Without Representation' will be the D.C. motto, 'Justitia omnibus,' meaning 'justice for all.'"

I really wished the Mayor hadn't rolled over so quickly on this. When the Mayor visited our neighborhood meeting, he said he'd press for enfranchisement during his term. This seems like a battle that could have been fought and won.