Friday, May 14, 2010

What the European Union Teaches America About “States’ Rights”

In the Development of the European Union, we can see the issue of “states’ rights” versus “large, central government” play out in real time, in the modern world, before our eyes. One great example of how these two approaches interact occurs between Sweden and Spain.

Swedish Citizens May Spend Their Entire Working Years
contributing to the Swedish healthcare system, and then retire to Spain to draw down their late-life healthcare. What they will have paid for in Sweden will be more than they would have paid into the Spanish system, but they are free to move around the continent and retire in Spain, where things cost less. There, they can draw on health-care benefits for which they have not paid, while the Swedish system stays flush with their unclaimed payments.

And the Spanish Health-care System
is going bust, at least partly as a result.

If We Had States-Run Medicare or Social Security Systems, we would experience the same issues here. Such as all those New Yorkers who retire in Florida, if they had only paid into a New York state system during all those cold winters, before heading south.

The States’ Rights Argument of the Republican Party and the Tea Party protesters can be powerful and compelling. But that does not make it viable nor realistic in our twenty-first century world.

In Today’s Edition of The Washington Post, Utah Republican candidate for the United States Senate Tim Bridgewater argues for just such a system, however. Mr. Bridgewater writes:
“In 1787, the Founding Fathers crafted a free system of government built on the principle that individuals have God-given rights. The Founders protected those a vertical separation of powers between the federal government and the states. The national government would manage external affairs and keep the states on a level playing field; state governments were to do the rest.

“Over time, that vertical separation of powers has almost disappeared. Today, the federal government feels it can manage even the details of personal health care and education. States have been relegated to administrative units of a central leviathan, in a system of plunder in which each state tries to live at the expense of the others.”
Candidate Bridgewater Offers Telecommunications as an example argument for states’ rights. But how could the individual states possibly regulate such a national, and even international, structure? How could we possibly have the Internet, with every aspect of regulation negotiated among “the several states,” if not for the coordinating power of our Federal government?

What the EU Demonstrates,
even more than our 200-plus-year history shows, are the challenges of the state/Federal hybrid.

Candidate Bridgewater Also Writes:
“Not to put too fine a point on it, but Washington’s track record stinks. Congress has given us more than $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities in Social Security and Medicare. Lawmakers encouraged a housing bubble and then took hundreds of billions of dollars from taxpayers when it burst. There is no reason to think Congress can do a better job this time than when it tried to manage energy in the 1970s and ’80s.”
One Might Insert the Word “Republican” in front of each Bridgewater assertion about Washington, Congress and lawmakers, and get a better understanding of the failure of this thirty-year adventure with ideology. Despite that Mr. Bridgewater and the ground-swell of Conservative protesters seem oblivious to this fact, too, regardless of the inconvenience of actual reality.

What the Last 30 Years——and particularly the years 2001-2008——show is the limitations on the “states’ rights” policies, combined with an underfunded Federal government. The answer is not to excise the Federal government. The answer is to use that of it which works well, and to improve that of which works poorly.

Or Does Candidate Bridgewater Truly Believe
that the state of Utah can individually put a floor under the price and costs of carbon, and let Utah take on the Chinese, the Germans, the Scandinavians, and the Spanish in developing the world’s new growth industries, the new technologies?

Naivety Such as We Saw Under
President George W. Bush is a powerful force. But what America and all its 50 states need now, is to put away the “childish things” of failed ideology, and roll up our sleeves, and get to work.

Find Mr. Bridgewater’s essay at:


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