Posted by: Donna
Bob Robb wryly bemoaned the “death of federalism” in his latest column.
Federalism was a big deal to the founders. They wanted an energetic national government, but one that was confined to enumerated national functions. The founders also envisioned a bright line between the federal and state governments, each sovereign within their own spheres.
We are a long way from that. Today, the Democratic Party sees virtually nothing as outside the purview of the federal government. The Republican Party talks a good game about federalism, but usually ends up undermining the principle when it acquires national power.
Robb sticks to government spending to illustrate why we’re supposed to think weakened state power is a bad, bad thing. His argument rests on the strange assumption that states have equal intentions and resources.
Every kid in America lives in a state and local community that is more interested in his education and workplace preparedness than the federal government. What do we really have to show for the increased federal involvement in education, under George W. Bush or Obama?
He ends with the obligatory deficit flogging and homage to St. Ronald of Reagan.
The federal government is broke, and broke in a way that threatens the American economy. Proposals that it do even more are surreal, even if they are supposedly paid for. If there’s loose change to be had, the federal government should use it to reduce the deficit, not further expand its reach.
It’s nowhere on the horizon, but a revival of Reagan’s new federalism discussion is badly needed.
No, it isn’t badly needed. The federal government isn’t broke and should be helping struggling Americans rather than dealing with the deficit now. And “states rights” have been used all too often in the past to oppress people (slavery, Jim Crow), and continue to be employed as weapons against progress and equality today. Robb may view it as an improper reach of the federal over Arizona, but I was sure glad to see a federal judge overturn last year’s state law barring Arizona’s Medicaid patients from using Planned Parenthood as their provider. The judge agreed with the plaintiff that the state legislature was violating Medicaid recipients’ right to a provider of their choice. Republican legislators were not interfering in people’s private health care decisions out of a greater interest in the quality of their care, either. It was an ideological attack on Planned Parenthood.
It’s one thing for states to use their power to improve federal programs (as some states are doing with Medicaid) or expand people’s freedoms (as states are doing by legalizing gay marriage and marijuana) but most conservatives clamoring for even stronger “states rights” are doing so for the opposite reason.
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