Here's the deal. You've got a city with great monuments, a dozen tapas restaurants, a giant outdoor mall (admittedly, with no Gap, however), many big-time museums, a panda, an actual pro football team for heaven's sake, not to mention at least three Starbuck's restaurants, and still nobody wants it.
You literally cannot give the place away.
Not that Newt Gingrich, who is usually philosophically opposed to all give-aways not connected with a major publishing house, isn't trying.
We're talking about Washington, D.C., of course -- D.C. standing for Deficit City (or possibly Doomed City). Mayor Marion Barry, who's not presently in prison, has said the district faces a $722 million shortfall.
Faced with this news, many in Congress are considering a federal takeover of the district. That sounds like a credible solution. Whenever you have a deficit, you should always consult Congress -- which is currently carrying a little over $4 trillion on its MasterCard -- for lessons in fiscal responsibility. If that doesn't work, try Kim Basinger.
To be fair, there are two interesting recommendations out of Congress I've heard to solve the problem: a balanced budget amendment and renting out spare rooms at the White House.
Newtie, of course, has a better idea.
He wants to give the district back to Maryland, which generously donated the land 200 years ago, but only with the proviso that, when stop lights are invented, the city insist on using circles instead.
Once a marsh-land, the district has evolved, of course, into a swamp.
So, nobody was surprised when Parris "Will Work for Pension" Glendening turned the offer down. His exact quote was, I believe, "We've already got our own Washington monument. What else do they have that we could possibly want?"
(By the way, what do you think of the new guv so far? If nothing else, you have to admit he's a generous employer. His chief of staff got $60,000 in unused sick pay, which he's now giving back. I don't know about you, but the last job I left, they gave me a voucher good for three visits to Neil Solomon.)
The offer from Newtie isn't that surprising. The new speaker/revolutionary leader, a cross between Sam Rayburn and Che Guevara, is not content merely to down-size the federal government. He'd prefer to eliminate it altogether.
In his futurist vision, you don't need an actual capital city. Everything would work the way it does on that Bell Atlantic commercial. Newtie brings all the congresspersons together to tell them that, from now on because of advances predicted by Alvin Toffler, they can work from their home districts, where, unfortunately, they'd be required to pay for their own haircuts.
It'd be worth it just to see the smiles on their faces, now that they can leave D.C. and go back home to, say, winters in South Dakota.
You could see how this might be workable. Newtie's doing away with most of the committees anyway. The legislators could e-mail their votes. The only down-side I can see is that this would make it very tough on C-Span to put on much of a show.
But let's say Washington stays pretty much the way it is. This may be a minority view, but I think Maryland should take Washington back.
Here are just a few of the many, many advantages.
* You can put a state-of-Maryland historical marker on the Fanne Foxe/Wilbur Mills tidal basin.
* Lots of extra revenue from parking tickets.
* Three words: More Ethiopian restaurants.
* Smiling Phil Gramm might visit more often.
* Baltimore would no longer be the murder capital of the state.
* A metro system that goes more than two miles.
* They have Washington insiders. All we have is fortune-tellers on Pulaski Highway.
* Here's a bonus you may not have considered: Annex D.C., and Maryland gets an NFL team without the bother of having to move the Redskins to Laurel.
It'll never happen, of course. Blame it on a failure of imagination.
And yet, I can always dream of someday living in a state in which Jack Kent Cooke's ex-wife Marlene has a driver's license.