Tag: states rights

States Rights California Style

In his “New Rules” segment of his HBO show Real Time, Bill Maher took a stand against “outside agitators” who are trying to interfere with California’s liberal agenda. Adopting a good ol’ boy accents while lamenting federal overreach, Bill Maher wrapped up tonight’s Real Time episode with a New Rule: The “States’ Rights” issue now …

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Reclaiming Our Democracy (Part 2 of 2): Nullification

“Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of Liberty.”
— Thomas Jefferson

What is Government?

Why do we submit to the law?

We can’t run very fast. We have no sharp teeth or claws. Long ago it became obvious that it was in humanity’s self interest to ban together for our mutual security. We each give up a small amount of personal freedom, for the greater good of the whole. That is the basis of the social contract.

As citizens, our responsibility is to uphold the laws of government. The government, in turn, also has obligations. The bare minimum of those obligations are to protect the majority of people from enemies both foreign and domestic. What enemies do we wish to protect ourselves from? At the very least hunger, disease, invasion by hostile forces (external security), and threats to our self-governance (internal security).

So how are we doing in that respect? Lousy.

We all but wiped out hunger in the US shortly after the Kennedy administration (ended 1963), but the government intentionally reintroduced it in the Reagan administration to drive down worker wages. What is left of our health care system is sowing the seeds of its own destruction. Foreign NGO’s have been invited by the Supreme Court to financially manipulate campaigns and thus our government. Internal threats to self-governance are too numerous to recount here, and in any case the Supreme Court has abandoned all pretense that this was a democracy and officially ruled the US a plutocracy.

We are in essence living in a failed state. Just because I am writing about the US, don’t think your country is doing any better. Most of the Western world is in the same boat.

Other articles have detailed the complex road we took to get here. That is not the purpose of this series. This series discusses how we get out.

Specifically, how to tell our government “No!”

The “State’s Rights” Debate

We had a interesting debate Friday night over Arizona’s right to enact laws as a matter of a State’s Right to autonomy on WWL Radio. My esteemed partner and I saw it very differently.


First of definition of terms, as I plan to employ them:

As a matter of distrusting my own choice of words, when the semantic point came up that the idea of “Federalism” meaning FOR State’s rights, I chose to wander over and pick up my copy of “The Federalist Papers” off our library shelf. I also googled and skimmed “The Anti-Federalist Papers” which were published at the time to make the case against a strong centralized government and arguing against ratifying the Constitution. It was the Anti-Federalists who made the Bill of Rights being the first act of Congress an absolute guarantee. Jefferson was a strong Federalist in believing that the Separation of Powers would ensure a Central Government that would create safeguards against the Federal Government becoming an entity with enough power to become abusive to individual State’s or Citizen’s welfare.

The Federalist Party; thereafter was a product of pro-banking, pro-business who wanted a fiscally stable strong central government. Hamilton’s centralized banking economic policies were opposed by Jefferson – the arguments were essentially elitism versus populism; but culminated moreso in the only Federalist President, John Adam’s creation of a tax subsidized standing military (Navy) and the creation of the “Alien and Sedition Act” …the very first shot in the effort to create a Unitary Executive. However Jefferson also penned the Ky & VA resolution, which supported State’s Rights should the Federal Government overstep its bounds. A sticky wicket this term.

So, consider my usage of the term “Federalist” in description of my views for this debate only, as the Jeffersonian argument for a Central Government, and as the opposing view of the “Anti-Federalist” State’s Autonomy arguers of that era. I am comfortable in my use of this term under this intended usage. I am not employing all of the nuances of Federalist’s platforms or views in this debate, rather using the most simplistic of usages.

Ok, that said, let us move on to the legalities and ethical questions surrounding these points of views in this present era.

The States.

Since the demise of the public option and single payer health care, what I’ve been hearing from some on Docudharma is that we should pursue solutions that are not to be had from the Federal government, like true universal non profit health care for all, from the states.  I’ve even recommended some of those posts out of sympathy or friendship.

But, to me, there’s a problem, here, Houston.

You see, the GLBT movement has already gone this way many times.  Where we have been rejected by our Federal government, many of us look to our states to make things better, to provide that which our central government is unable or unwilling to do.

Without engaging in hyperbole, there are some things I think people should think about when they talk about working on state-by-state solutions to the crises of social and economic equality and basic human welfare that bear consideration:

1.  One of the problems progressives have with the Federal government is the degree to which the central government is willing to countenance social and economic inequality.  This problem is exacerbated, not diminished, by going to the states.

What you are really doing is adding state level inequality to class and social inequality.

When the GLBT movement got little traction at the federal government level, the battle largely shifted to the states.

Despite the battles that have taken place, a curious thing has happened:  With few exceptions, the level of freedoms and rights LGBT people enjoy at the state level largely mirrors or corresponds with the pre-existing level of social acceptance already in those states to begin with.  There has been, with notable exceptions like Iowa, very little of the phenomenon of social acceptance of LGBT people spreading from state to state, as incrementalists would have people believe.

Oh, to be sure, many of the high profile battles have taken place in what the average American would deem “liberal” states.  Proposition 8, for example, lost in California, what most people would think of as a liberal accepting state.  But this obscures the fact that the rights LGBT people enjoy in California is already higher than in other states, less marriage, to begin with.

California has domestic partnerships which are in every sense the equivalent of the best civil unions available in other states.  Battles over LGBT rights are taking place in states that have, already, reasonably good track records, compared to the worst states.

But in Colorado, gay people have no domestic partnerships or civil unions.  This is not on the horizon, either.  To be fair, Colorado is rather middle of the road when it comes to LGBT acceptance.  We cannot legally be fired from our jobs on account of merely being gay, for example, which is not the case in other states.  But this is not my point:  My point is the social and economic inequalities which do exist between the states vis a vis gay rights tend to be “locked in” over a long period of time, and the battles consist of getting people rights that are in the final analysis willing to be given by the people.

When it comes to health care, or other areas in which the Federal government has failed in its duty to its citizens, there is every reason to believe that the GLBT model and history would apply:  States with a record and history of being willing to provide for their citizens are where these battles would occur and have a chance of winning, while citizens of other, lesser equal states will be told to suck wind and have few options.

In some cases, these could be different states than in the LGBT experience, but there is a dangerous overlap, and it’s the pattern that applies:  Inequality increases, it doesn’t decrease.

US Supremes clobber Big Banks

For all of us who are (ahem) less than satisfied with the vigor of the US Federal Government’s prosecution and enforcement of banking laws against large financial institutions, the US Supreme Court on Monday bucked 145 years of tradition to deliver an important and far reaching opinion that falls squarely on the side of greater accountability.

In Cuomo v. Clearing House Association (PDF), the court struck down a regulation by the US Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) that prohibited enforcement of state banking laws against national banks.

The case involved an attempt by former New York Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer in 2005 to investigate bank lending practices, such as whether a disproportionately large percentage of high-interest mortgages were made to minorities.

After Spitzer sent letters of inquiry to national banks, including Wells Fargo & Co., Citibank and JP Morgan Chase & Co., a bank consortium called the Clearing House Assn. filed suit to stop the investigation.

The Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates national banks, also filed suit, arguing that Spitzer was improperly encroaching on its rule under an 1864 law that it was the only entity with the “visitorial power” to examine such banks. The suits were combined and upheld by lower courts.

But Spitzer’s successor, Andrew Cuomo, appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing in part that the federal agency’s interpretation in effect shielded national banks from states’ enforcing their own laws to protect consumers and prohibit discrimination.