States Rights and States Responsibilities.

There has been a swing to stronger states rights in the US. While everything that the federal government touches is hardly smooth or efficient, my confidence in individual states is far lower. For what it’s worth, when states get involved in what I believe are national issues, I think makes us a weaker, not stronger, nation. That’s when we are no longer “united”. We are often the Dysfunctional States of America, the new Wild West where every state haphazardly makes up its own rules. What’s worrisome is that there are state rules about policies that could and should be unified nationally. I strongly believe that healthcare, abortion, gun control, and voting in national elections are ones best handled by our nation as a whole. They are important national issues. On the other hand, local government, state education, local roads, local utilities, (non-federal) prisons, state and local taxes etc. all belong on the state and local level.

On a voting basis it’s hard to understand the continued need for an Electoral College for Presidential elections. It’s an antiquated institution that distorts the will of the people.  It makes a vote in a populated “swing state” far more important than a vote in a stronger leaning red or blue state. Why should a vote in Georgia or Arizona or Michigan be more important than one in New York or Texas? Why should a President be elected with less votes than his/her opponent. It was now happened twice in the last 22 years years when a candidate with fewer national votes than his opponent (2000, 2016) was elected President. Does that really make any sense? Lest this be seen as a veiled liberal view of the world, in 2020 if 4 million more Texans voted for Trump than Biden, Trump would have won the popular vote by 1 Million votes, yet still had badly lost in the Electoral College, 306 to 232. I can’t imagine the howls of “election fraud” then. The Electoral College is the fraud that needs to be blown up.  When we do, the issue of a politician corruptly leaning on a state official to “find” 11,000 votes is far less likely to happen. The will of the people nationally will be the deciding factor.

Also when you consider states rights, we should consider states spending. Here’s a simple and fair idea. How about equalizing where our federal taxes dollars are spent consistent with where they are generated? Dollars out and dollars in should match. In New Jersey for example, where I’ve lived in entire life (and will continue to do so), only 79 cents of every federal dollar paid from New Jersey folk comes back to the state in federal spending. That’s the lowest in the nation. On the other hand, there are 5 states that get more than $2 back for every dollar contributed—Kentucky, Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi, and New Mexico. You want states rights? You want the federal government off your back? Let’s equalize spending across all states—One dollar out, one dollar back in.  

From a population perspective, geographic trends have resulted in shifting population. Some northern states are losing residents and Southern ones are becoming more populated. Furthermore, there are two large and growing southern states–Florida and Texas–that have no state income tax. Most others do, and I am well aware that New Jersey’s is among the highest taxed state. But state taxes are indeed an individual state decision, and that’s fine.

As mentioned, Texas and Florida are recent beneficiaries of greater migration from the north. Nice weather and no income state income taxes make them desirable destinations for many (not me, BTW). On the other hand, it is well understood that there are far more climate disasters in Florida and Texas, always have been, and it’s increasing given climate change. Nonetheless, Texas and Florida line up seeking federal funds for disaster relief time and time again. How about each state funds its own disaster relief allocating a portion of its state revenue for “a rainy day”? Know that Senator Cruz (Texas) and then Rep. DeSantis (Florida) opposed Sandy relief for northern states in 2012, yet are first in line to beg for federal disaster relief. What hypocrisy! Why not let each state fund its own disaster relief, or minimally match federal funds. If a state chooses not to have a state income tax, like Texas and Florida, then that their state’s right. However, it’ll need to assess its citizens for the disaster relief when needed. Ever live in a community where there’s a Homeowner’s Association? What happens when there’s an extraordinary event? The HOA taps its reserves and then there’s an assessment if there are not enough funds in reserve. Let Florida and Texas create their own reserves for disasters. And not seek funds from the federal government.

In the end, states rights need to be counterbalanced by increased states responsibilities. Can’t have it both ways.

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