Thursday, October 4, 2012

New Federalist Paper

Let's talk about federalism vs. states' rights.  Tonight, in a debate in which Mitt Romney lied through his teeth, a fact only evident to those who have been paying attention all year to what he's been saying, Romney pushed for states' rights at every turn.  Health care:  let's do it state by state.  Education:  none of the federal government's business.  He intends, he says, to create lots of jobs, so I guess there is something he leaves to the federal government, apart from making nice, profitable wars, but he neglects to say how; perhaps in the end his intention is to let the states figure that out too.  So what's wrong with letting states do what they will?

First of all, what have we ever gained, as a nation, from favoring states' rights?  Let's see:  slavery, a civil war, conflicting levels of civil rights, including the rights of minorities, women's rights and gender-identity rights, huge education quality gaps, and cities and states approaching bankruptcy and asking -- guess who? -- the federal government for help (then criticizing said government for spending).  Witness Paul Ryan's objection to the Stimulus, then witness his outstretched hand beckoning stimulus money to come visit his state (it did; he then denied it; he then said his staff wrote the letters asking for aid and he just signed them; Romney is not the only liar in this team).  

The reasoning behind giving states' rights preference over federal control has something to do with the perception that states know better what their people want/need/will tolerate, and that the federal government is some kind of enemy to be kept at bay and milked occasionally for what the states can't themselves provide.  This may well be the belief of individual citizens, and that belief may well be born of more than just what their local, municipal and state leaders feed them; especially in the south, where slavery was touted as a states' rights issue, not a human rights issue, there is a tradition of holding such views.  However, there are issues -- usually the very issues in contention -- whose applicability to the entire population transcend states' rights.  We no longer profess to believe (even if we do -- and some do!) that slavery is okay in some states and not okay in others, but it is within living memory for many of us that segregation was "okay" in some states and not in others, and plenty of folks my age were on the segregation side of that battle, in which, thanks to them, there were very real casualties.  In today's America it makes no sense for a married gay couple to find themselves not married anymore if one of them gets a job that moves them to a different state, or for a woman to be able to obtain a needed abortion in one state while a woman in the same situation cannot obtain one in another.  These are not policies; these are human rights.  They should be guaranteed on a federal level and states should be compelled to comply.

States cry "Less government!  More freedom!"  They almost always mean, of course, federal government, and they often confuse the freedom of the citizen with the state's freedom (or one religion or another's freedom) to bully some citizens.  Todd Akin is a (mental) case in point:  he thinks private companies should be able to pay different wages based on gender, race and God knows what else, because if the federal government has laws regarding that, it's not a matter of human civil rights; it's a matter of interfering with free enterprise, which apparently trumps human civil rights.  Likewise, those who consider -- or for political reasons profess to consider -- abortion to be murder (pushing laws that date personhood from conception, or in Arizona's case, two weeks before conception) call themselves pro-life but in fact are pro-pushing-their-religious-views-onto-everyone, which is unconstitutional.  They ignore science, which tells us when a fetus develops functioning nerve endings; they make up their own science.  Why would they bother to do that?  If they did not make up their own science, they would have to admit they were simply trying to violate the religious freedom of others, not to mention the right of women to control their own bodies.  The war on women is a whole other topic, into which I won't delve here.  What I will point out is that these same people who cry "Less government!" want the government, whose interference they would not tolerate with regard to what is expected of a school and its teachers, to control who sleeps with whom as well as every little thing about a woman's body, including what constitutes "legitimate" rape.  Does anyone see a philosophical conflict here?

One has to wonder why an antifederalist would even want to be president... unless one took a close look at Romney.  Okay, not even a close look would be required -- just a look at his record would be enough.  The man has more money than God.  He needs power now; it's his new toy and he wants it, badly.  Of course if he by some nasty trick of fate or through the amnesia of the American public actually became president, his power would be illusory; the Koch brothers will be our president, and our democracy will have devolved fully into plutocracy.  That, too, is a story for another insomniac moment.  For the nonce, let's take his power bid at face value.  Why would he want to be the executive of the despised federal government?  Well, for one thing, he could dismantle a good deal of it from within.  For another, he could command the only part of the federal government states' rights advocates really like:  the military.  What lucrative fun, to be in charge of the war machine!  What warm-blooded American boy doesn't secretly long to blow stuff up?

More difficult to fathom is the source and even the veracity of Romney's seeming antifederalism.  Can it be real?  Is it just something he picked up while kissing the tea-drenched asses of his party's more insane members?  Per the Boston Globe, Romneycare was largely funded by the federal government. Bain Capital was bailed and rebailed out, to the tune of "well over $50 million," according to the Patriot Newswire.  I guess states' rights include the right to beg the federal government for help while decrying the awfulness of its very existence.  You might even call it representation without taxation.

Tonight he repeated part of what we recently heard him say -- that what was good for Massachusetts (Romneycare) might not be good for the nation (like Obamacare).  He did not explain why.  The part he didn't repeat was that he felt we already had good enough health care for the uninsured:  they could be picked up in their apartments (of course they're in apartments!) and be hauled off to the emergency room to be treated for free (it's NOT free, of course, and it's also completely useless care for someone who hasn't got a broken leg or a heart attack; it's not appropriate care for, say, a diabetic, or someone with cancer).  He added (in case you're wondering why I've brought this up) that of course every state had its own way of handling this procedure.

So Romney is, unlike your humble blogger, neither a federalist nor an anti-federalist.  He is, apart from being a liar (and a sociopath), a pragmatist.  If he is running a state, of course he wants as much control of the state as possible; if he is running a country, he will want to exert his power over the whole country, although he may delegate not out of prudence but out of mental laziness (he is used to having things done and even thought for him).

The original Tea Partiers dumped three shiploads of tea into Boston Harbor to protest taxes on that product imposed by the East India Tea Company and the British government; they objected, they said, to being taxed by anyone whom they had not elected to represent them.  This may have been their true reason, or part of it; perhaps part or all of it was that they just resented paying the high taxes, regardless of representation or lack thereof.  We may never know.  The point is, they claimed they wanted representation, which means government.  They were not antifederalist; they were anticorporate.  Today's Teapublicans are antifederalist and revere uncontrolled capitalism, which isn't even capitalism anymore; they're plutocrats, from the poorest brainwashed redneck to the divine Kochs themselves.

The original antifederalists were against the ratification of the Constitution.  However, the Constitution was in fact ratified and we've been using (and sometimes abusing) it as the bedrock of our nation for over two centuries.  It works more often than it doesn't work and I'd hate to scrap it just because some people would prefer to follow local prejudices and incivilities (until they need some money).  I certainly would not like to see it scrapped in favor of the (I fear) impending plutocratic order that would finally be fully established should Romney win the 2012 election.  It would not matter then whether he was a true antifederalist or just a Teapublican pawn.  And how would the 50 states fare then?  They might find themselves just a bit freer than they can afford to be -- and their citizens less free than they ever expected.

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