Dump Trash at Boehner’s Place

Why in the hell are Federal taxpayers footing the bill for residential trash collection in DC?

I saw this on Twitter yesterday but it’s apparently gaining steam.

CNN’s Ed Hornick (“Facebook event: Let’s dump trash at Boehner’s pad“)

If the federal government shuts down come Friday, House Speaker John Boehner may be in for quite a mess at his Washington, D.C. residence if some Facebook users have their way.

A Facebook event, entitled “If Boehner shuts down the government I am taking my trash to his house,” has popped up and is gaining steam as the shutdown showdown ramps up on Capitol Hill. If the federal government shuts down, one of the District’s services that will stop is trash pickup.

“Speaker John Boehner is ready to shut down the government, including District of Columbia city services like trash collection,” it says on the page. “Well, if he won’t allow us to use OUR TAX DOLLARS to pick it up, maybe we should just BRING IT TO HIM.”

As of 2:30 p.m. EST there are 1,476 attending; 126 are listed as maybe; 156 aren’t showing up; and 4,652 are still making up their minds (much like Congress, apparently).
The trash-a-thon is scheduled for Saturday and apparently will last through June 30.

Organizers of the event – Jonah Goodman and Nolan Treadway – write on the page that even if the government shutdown doesn’t occur, they will “move forward with this event, we’ll provide details on location(s) and we’ll make sure it’s done in a sanitary and respectful way. Please don’t list any personal addresses for members of Congress on this page.”

Aside from the obvious criminality of carrying out this stunt and questions as to whether Boehner is solely or mostly to blame if the government shuts down, my main reaction to this is: Why in the hell are Federal taxpayers footing the bill for residential trash collection in DC?

You know who pays to pick up trash at the Joyner household? He’s got two thumbs and is writing this post.

I understand that DC hosts the seat of the national government and am fully on board with defraying the additional burden that poses on the District. Extra police protection, infrastructure costs (roads, subways, etc. for commuters), and so forth should obviously be paid for by all of us.  Ditto, for that matter, trash pickup at the National Mall, Smithsonian Museums, and so forth. But, surely, the people who live in DC should pay for the ordinary costs of maintaining a city?

UPDATE:  A commenter says the real issue is DC’s lack of budget autonomy. Essentially, “the federal government does not allow the District government to spend local tax dollars without Congressional and Presidential approval.”

I was aware that Congress maintained significant control over DC despite home rule having gone into effect in 1973. And I have no philosophical objection to that: As the seat of government, DC is unique among American cities. But autonomy over such completely local matters as trash collection would seem obvious.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. wr says:

    Maybe the people who live in DC should have the same representation as every other American citizen. But of course they can’t, because they’re largely black, and therefore they might vote for Democrats.

  2. Why in the hell are Federal taxpayers footing the bill for residential trash collection in DC?

    They likely aren’t. “Federally controlled” doesn’t necessarily mean “Federally funded”

  3. Herb says:

    “Aside from the obvious criminality of carrying out this stunt”

    Hmm…..this stunt is is “obvious criminality” and NOT constitutionally protected free speech?

    PS. Not sure how it is in DC, but illegal dumping of trash isn’t a crime in my town. It’s a code violation.

  4. DC Loser says:

    “it just fell out of my car, officer.”

  5. EddyTeach says:

    You really miss the point.

    As a DC resident, I pay my taxes in full and expect just like any other American citizen to have those dollars put toward local services, among other things.

    This expectation is far fetched.

    Because the federal government continues to disenfranchise DC residents, I do not have the security to know that my dollars will be spent in my community’s best interest. Those dollars are now pawns in this budget game so long as DC is prevented for exercising some autonomy.

    So don’t wring your hands over your dollars paying for my garbage disposal. You have the benefit of getting some return on your tax dollar investment.

  6. G.A.Phillips says:

    PS. Not sure how it is in DC, but illegal dumping of trash isn’t a crime in my town. It’s a code violation.

    The crime would be what happened to you if tried to dump $hit at my house I guess….

  7. DC Loser says:

    Tell me again why DC residents should be paying federal income tax?

  8. James Joyner says:


    Washington, DC has a no tolerance position toward illegal dumping and urges residents to help spread the word. DPW, in partnership with the Metropolitan Police Department, is offering a reward of up to $500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of each illegal dumper.


    DC has elected local officials and a city government infrastructure. It’s bizarre that trash pickup isn’t funded internally. If your point is that trash pickup is for some odd reason not part of the home rule allowance, I’d agree that it’s totally absurd.

    @DC Loser: DC residents get far more benefit from the Federal government than the average resident of Utah. That they don’t get to vote for Congress is problematic but a known condition of living in that tiny area; certainly, they can move 2 miles in either direction and remedy the problem if it bothers them.

    (I favor granting DC residents voting rights through some sort of retrocession. Statehood would be absurd for reasons I’ve discussed numerous times. And, no, I don’t want to turn this into another such thread.)

  9. It’s bizarre that trash pickup isn’t funded internally.

    Passports are funded through use fees. Many national parks earn far more in revenue then they spend. Yet they’re getting shut down too.

    You’re making a faulty assumption that because something is being shutdown, that it must be getting outside funding.

  10. dc res says:

    The problem is that the income tax that DC collects has to go back through the federal govt before DC can use it. The federal budget is not paying for DC trash collection.

    DC budget autonomy:

  11. G.A.Phillips says:

    Tell me again why anyone should be paying federal income tax?

  12. ptfe says:

    Just FYI:

    The [shutdown contingency] plan calls for the following services to remain open:

    • Metropolitan Police Department …
    • Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department …
    • DC Public Schools and Public Charter Schools …
    • Limited Health and Human Services Functions: A limited number of Health and Human Services functions will be operating, including income maintenance functions (TANF, food stamps, and Medicaid), limited unemployment benefits functions, the Department of Mental Health, various functions of the Child and Family Services Agency, and a limited set of functions within the Department of Health

    Services that would be interrupted by a federal shutdown include:

    • Department of Motor Vehicles …
    • Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs …
    • Department of Public Works: Trash collection will not start until one week after shutdown. Street sweeping will be suspended.
    • Department of Transportation: DDOT will be operating with a skeletal crew, so routine maintenance and repairs will cease. Emergency repairs will be made.
    • Public Libraries: All D.C. libraries will be closed.

    Previously Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton attempted to get a House vote on a provision that would allow the D.C. government to spend its own local funds for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The attempt failed in the House Rules Committee.

    I don’t believe any of Eleanor Holmes Norton’s bills has actually been acted on by its committee, so that last sentence is actually incorrect; instead, the House Rules Committee tabled the matter until the speaker gave the go-ahead. That was mid-March. So in a far more specific sense than not getting a full federal budget passed that will make it to the White House, Boehner’s the sole entity who’s been holding up the DC part for about a month.

  13. Herb says:

    RE: illegal dumping.

    I’m not saying this is a good plan….it’s pretty dumb. I’m not impressed by protesters and their little protests.

    But scare tactics aside, dumping trash is unlawful, but it’s usually not criminal.

  14. mantis says:

    Tell me again why anyone should be paying federal income tax?

    Fear of prison?

  15. Dirtbag says:

    Why no Outrage from DC residents when the Democrats controlled everything, yet still didn’t help DC. Oh yeah, only Republicans do bad things…

  16. ConcernedMumsie says:

    I have not seen any mention of the fact that even US territories such as Guam and Puerto Rico, are not required to have their local funded budgets approved by Congress, as is the case with DC. To add insult to injury, as the feds approached the possible shut-down, federal employees were being given 4 hours on Monday following the shut-down to close email, etc., when DC government was not getting one minute of time to accomplish the same thing. As catchy an idea as the trash-dump-at-Speaker-Boehner’s-house is, I think that it’s time for the entirety of the District of Columbia to march on Congress to show that the indignities and harm to the tax-paying residents and employees of DC are, in many respects, considerably more profound than for the federal employees who are virtually guaranteed back pay for “furlough” days (which are really nothing more than unplanned but paid days off). The last time there was a federal government shut down, it took DC and those affected more than 4 years to work out the retroactive financial impact of the shut down.