Good-bye Federalism

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Now that the GOP controls all branches of the federal government, we’ve heard time and again the liberals are rediscovering the joys of federalism as a means of experimenting with their own progressive policies at a state level. On the other side of the aisle, as Susan Milligan reports in the Boston Globe, our Republican Congress has all but abandoned federalism, instead using New Deal-style powers in order to “quash state efforts to regulate industry.” The brave crusade against clean air and children runs the gamut, from repealing state controls on engine emissions to preventing states from outlawing harmful drugs.

Now the natural thing to do would be to start screaming “hypocrites!” at every conservative you see, especially since it was George Bush himself who said back in 2001: “The framers of the Constitution did not believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful government.” But faulting Republicans for not living up to their time-honored states’-rights principles isn’t going to get anyone anywhere. As I’ve said before, this just isn’t a debate between federalists and anti-federalists, it’s a debate between those who think there should be economic standards and those who don’t, and it’s really being fought everywhere. Republicans are rightly worried that progressive state experiments could succeed and then bubble up to the federal level, so naturally they’ll use every tool in their little Congressional toolkit to stomp these innovations out.

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