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For decades, residents of Washington, D.C., have been clamoring for representation in Congress. Currently, the nation’s capital has only a non-voting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives and no U.S. senators. The issue has been such a frustration that D.C. license plates feature the protest motto, "Taxation Without Representation."
It’s against this backdrop that we noticed a Facebook post recently. Here’s the text:
"Washington, D.C., now has:
"Greater population than Wyoming & Vermont
"More active duty military than 29 states
"More tax revenue than 29 states
"A larger domestic product than 27 states
"But no vote on the floor of the House OR the Senate?
"What’s up with that?"
We wondered how accurate the post’s claims were, so we took a look. We’ll take them in order.
• Greater population than Wyoming and Vermont
This one’s true, as long as you use 2012 population estimates rather than the last full Census count in 2010. (D.C.’s population grew quickly within that two-year span.) In 2012, the district was estimated to have 632,323 residents, putting it ahead of Vermont at 626,011 and Wyoming at 576,412, but no other state.
• More active duty military than 29 states
The most recent data we found was for 2009, and it shows that the Facebook post actually underestimated the nation’s capital. There are 31 states that had fewer active duty military personnel than D.C. (This may not be too surprising, given that the Pentagon is just across the river in Virginia.)
• More tax revenue than 29 states
The U.S. Census Bureau ranks all 50 states by tax revenue collected, but it doesn’t include D.C. However, we were able to find the D.C. data separately, in a D.C. government document.
Meshing the data together, we found that D.C. total tax revenue for fiscal year 2011 was higher than 14 states, not 29 states. So this claim is incorrect.
• A larger gross domestic product than 27 states
Data from the U.S. Commerce Department shows that for fiscal year 2011, the district only outranked 17 states with a smaller gross domestic product than D.C. So this statistic is off the mark as well.
We found that the Facebook post was accurate in describing D.C.’s ranking in population and active-duty military personnel, but significantly off in describing tax revenues and gross domestic product. That said, D.C.’s actual rankings -- higher than 14 states in tax revenues and higher than 17 states in gross domestic product -- do support the post’s underlying point that many smaller states have congressional representation when D.C. does not. On balance, we rate the post Half True.
U.S. Census Bureau, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012, accessed Feb. 6, 2013
Statistical Abstract of the United States, Table 508. Military and Civilian Personnel in Installations: 2009, accessed Feb. 6, 2013
Government of the District of Columbia, D.C. Tax Facts, 2012
U.S. Census Bureau, States Ranked by Total State Taxes: 2011, accessed Feb. 6, 2013
U.S. Department of Commerce, Table 1. Real GDP by State, 2008-2011, accessed Feb. 6, 2013
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