It may be time to change what they teach in political science 101 and in school civics classes. You see, an elementary distinction between the U.S. and most European democracies is that the other countries have a much more centralized government. Regional and local governments, such as they are, exist to carry out the rules of the capitol. It’s called a unitary system of government.
Every wonder why some states end more politicians to the House of Representatives while some send less, but the same number to the Senate? It goes back to the fact that this country is the United States of America. United. States. At the Constitutional Convention, some states wanted a Congressed based purely on population. States with a smaller population balked, so the representatives of the states compromised, giving us one body based purely on population (the House) and another treating all states equally (the Senate).
The importance of states to American government has also been seen in the fact that while there is a national government, state governments have had significant authority. While we call the government in Washington, DC, the “federal” government, the term “federal” also means that power is distributed among a national government and the various state governments. And that federal approach has served us pretty well.
That isn’t to say that we’ve always lived up to our best aspirations. Even after the end of slavery, some states had laws, such as Jim Crow, that violated fundamental principles of American political thought. The response to those laws (and the Great Depression) is one reason why the national government took on more powers.
Even after nearly a century of increased nationalization, though, states retain significant powers, and federalism still stands. For example, even in an age of No Child Left Behind, states call the shots in education, from kindergarten to graduate school. States have with some success challenged national laws on marijuana, and most recently, Arizona has, for good or bad, challenged the U.S. government on immigration law.
But all that could change. Some of the provisions of ObamaCare represent a power grab of Congress over state governments across the United States. Goodbye American federalism, hello European unitary government.
Here’s one description that sums up the changes pretty well:
“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act represents more than a federal takeover of health care; it is a direct threat to federalism itself …. Congress is also intruding deeply into the internal affairs of the states, commandeering their officers, specifying in minute detail how they are to arrange health insurance markets within their borders, and deter mining the products that will be sold to their citizens. If allowed to stand, this unprecedented concentration of political power in Washington will reduce the states to mere instruments of federal health policy.”
Will taking power away from Lansing, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana, and so forth and giving it to Washington, DC, make this a better nation? Some may think so, but I don’t. How about you?