Posted by Curt on 17 March, 2017 at 6:20 pm. 1 comment.


Charles Lane:

States’ rights is making a comeback, but this time it’s progressives, not slaveholders or white supremacists, raising the cry.

There’s an independence movement in California — the frustrated giant that provided Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote margin of 3 million in November. In a New Republic manifesto, Kevin Baker goes beyond “Calexit” to advocate a quasi-secessionist “Bluexit” for all 20 states that Clinton carried.

Dismayed by the Democrats’ loss of the federal government, gloomy at the prospect of more such defeats to come and — in Baker’s case — embittered by red states’ dependence on federal funds disproportionately supplied by blue-state taxpayers, some lefties have concluded that if you can’t lick ’em, leave ’em.

Or take ’em to court, as blue-state attorneys general are doing to the Trump administration on immigration, in a mirror image of their red-state counterparts’ lawsuits against President Barack Obama on the same issue.

Obviously, a national breakup along state lines is not going to happen, and would make our predicament worse if it did.

Still, stripped of its loopier manifestations, the liberal rediscovery of states as sovereign policymaking entities could be a positive development.

Heretofore, federalism has been a right-wing cause, whose malignant forms trace their pedigree to John C. Calhoun and Secessionism 1.0. Now, a left-right convergence might sustain benign forms of federalism — based on the understanding that policy should, whenever appropriate, be made close to the people who will actually live under it.

Constitutional rights, especially those protected by the Bill of Rights and the Civil War amendments, must be federally enforced without variation. Ditto for the execution of national functions such as immigration, defense and monetary policies.

Beyond that, is it vital that all economic and social policies be identical from Massachusetts to Texas? Or is there some benefit in state-by-state experimentation and even a certain amount of competition?

The United States could not, indeed, survive half-slave and half-free. We certainly could survive if our states’ social models were half-red and half-blue — or one-third red, one-third blue, one-third purple. We might even flourish.

Many would be surprised how close we already are to such a devolution. Policy waivers are available to states that wish to depart from provisions of national education and health legislation — Obamacare included.

The New Deal’s great innovation, the minimum wage, sets a national floor under hourly pay but has long since ceased to function as a national standard. In the nearly 10 years since Congress last adjusted it, multiple states and localities have enacted their own laws. Now 29 states with 63 percent of the U.S. population have minimums higher, often much higher, than the federal $7.25 per hour.

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