The papier-mâché commission
Is the Commission on Decolonization for the Implementation and Exercise of Chamorro Self-Determination really necessary?
That's the question that I posed at the end of last month's column. If the people of this island want to sever their relationship with the United States and live in an independent country, then the answer is yes. If not, then the commission has no purpose.
There are actually only two political status options open to our island: independence or continued membership in the American political family as a territory. The advancement of statehood, free association or independence as realistic alternatives is political status three-card monte, a rigged game designed to present only one result: independence.
Independence is bracketed by two impossibilities— legal and factual. Free association is a political will o' the-wisp, which is legally not possible. Our island is not even quasi-sovereign as were the Marshall Islands, Caroline Islands and Palau when they cut a deal with the U.S.
Because of the powers granted to the Congress, per Article IV Section 3 of the Constitution, attempts to negotiate a compact like the freely associated states did would amount to the U.S. negotiating with itself.
Employing that same constitutional provision, the Congress can grant independence and then negotiate, but that's independence— isn't it?— not a unique third status.
Wyoming is the least populous state with about 580,000 residents compared to our 160,000. As a practical matter, given our relatively sparse population with no prospects to reach even the Wyoming level, the population factor alone makes statehood a practical impossibility. Add to that the fact that the admission process contemplates the new states' contribution to the federal treasury. Rather than contribute, we receive.
After eliminating the two impossibilities, we're left with two realistic alternatives: independence or territory: incorporated or unincorporated.
Incorporated territorial status has all the disadvantages of statehood and none of the advantages. Incorporated means federal income tax versus our current set up of the Guam Territorial Income Tax plus Section 30 money from the military, U.S. customs duties and collectors instead of our duty-free status, no more GEDA tax incentives and the end of other advantages arising from our extra-constitutional status.
Our national representation wouldn't change—one non-voting delegate to the House.
The incorporated status would be the end of any consideration of any kind of self-determination because the Constitution would apply ex proprio vigore. The only exit from incorporated is statehood, a practical impossibility. Note that Congress could make Guam an incorporated territory by changing one syllable in our Organic Act: Unincorporated.
We currently enjoy the perks of being unincorporated. With the accomplishment of two modifications, which we have long had the power to accomplish, we would have complete home rule. Our own constitution has been a possibility since 1978. We've had the ability to enact our own income tax since 1986. Home rule, the protections of the Bill of Rights, plus the favorable tax and customs structures we now enjoy make a very attractive package.
Because of our direct access to the Congress, there's more that we could do, viz:
· Life tenure for our federal judge.
· Relief from the more onerous provisions of the Jones Act.
· Enactment of some of the salutary provisions of the CNMI covenant.
· Establishment of at least a greater VA presence if not a Veterans Hospital.
· Compact Impact reform.
· Legislation mandating blanket inclusion in all federal programs, e.g., SSI (which we are on the threshold of accomplishing.)
Given the success of Delegate San Nicolas in securing EITC cash-out reimbursement and Medicaid funding, we're in a favorable position.
Staying in the American political family and working with Congress will certainly accomplish more for the people than the Separatist junkets to the United Nations seeking an independent Guam.
Because of our unique status, much is available that one of the 50 states or an independent country could never hope for. How about $2 billion in pandemic aid for openers? Free association and statehood are legal and factual impossibilities, respectively. The incorporated territorial status would be a step backward and our current status, unincorporated territory, is extremely advantageous. But what about independence?
If the vision that the separatists have presented so far were reduced to a mathematical statement it would look like this: 0000000.00.
Other than a critical race theory, a patterned attack on the military, the U.S. and even George Tweed, nothing much is heard from the separatists. Do they contemplate a direct democracy, republic, tribal government, kingdom or what? Who's ready for a pig in a poke other than the gullible who are guided by emotion not reason?
Remember, what I have laid out above deals with the political status of our island, not Chamorro self-determination which is what the commission is statutorily required to address.
The commission must address the question posed initially, do Chamorros want to "sever their relationship with the United States and live in an independent country?"
If the answer is yes, then the commission must articulate a vision of what that would entail. If the answer is no, then there's no reason for the existence of the commission.
Next month's column will deal with the concept of Chamorro self-determination in the broader context of the political status of the island and all the people thereof.
The “papier-mâché aspect" of the commission will also be dealt with. Like papier-mâché, the commission looks substantial and real from a distance, but up close there's really nothing solid there. It will tear apart if you poke it a little.
Bob Klitzkie is a former senator and Superior Court of Guam judge pro tem. He hosts a talk show called “Tall Tales,” on KUSG-FM (93.3 FM) weekday afternoons from 4 to 6 p.m.