FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Bigotry of States’ Rights

by JESSE JACKSON

In 1980, after receiving the nomination of his party, Ronald Reagan kicked off his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., at the Neshoba County Fair. Neshoba County is government. He went to send a message — and it was heard clearly across the South.

States are rightly hailed as laboratories of democracy, places that can experiment and try out programs and ideas that, if successful, spread across the country. But from the earliest days of the Republic, states’ rights has always been the doctrine of reaction. It has been invoked to stop national reform and to protect local privilege.

States’ rights was invoked by slave owners to protest abolition, even to the point of seceding from the union. States’ rights was then used to defend segregation from national reform. Later, it was trotted out to oppose integration of schools, as demanded by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education. To this day, it is used to justify state restrictions on voting, often imposed to constrict the right of the minorities and the poor to vote.

America has one of the weakest systems of social support in the industrial world. And the right of states to make their own decisions — on food stamps, on Medicaid, on public schools, on welfare — contributes directly to how bad it is.

And now we’re seeing the same doctrine — states’ rights — used to undermine health care reform. Empowered by the same Supreme Court decision that upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional, Republican governors across the country have refused to participate in creating their own health care exchanges. They’ve even turned their backs on billions of federal dollars in Medicaid funding to keep lower income Americans from having access to affordable care. Their resistance has made an already complicated reform plan even more difficult, even as they call for its repeal.

State and local control is inherently attractive. The states have different populations and different conditions. Local governments are more attuned and responsive to local voters and local challenges. State administration can help make federal programs more manageable. But too often, particularly in the South, local control is less a way to serve people than to lock them out.

If health care reform had simply extended Medicare to all at the national level, it would have been a huge program. But it would have been far simpler to get up and running, and far simpler to administer. The combination of conservatives who invoke states rights to stop or weaken change, and so-called “progressives” who embrace state and public-private partnerships to make programs more “efficient” led to the complexity that’s built into health care reform with its state level “exchanges” and its partnership with private insurance companies.

At the end of the day, real reform will come when the claims of states’ rights are denied, and federal rights are enforced. That was true in school desegregation, in voting rights, in welfare, and with the minimum wage. Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson all had to assert federal authority to enforce the law against resisting states. That burden now rests on President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder concerning the provision of affordable health care for all.

In this rich nation, every person should have access to comprehensive, affordable and high quality health care. And that won’t get done until the federal government exercises its full weight on the side of the poorest Americans, the “least of these” that most need a hand up.

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow PUSH.

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 27, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Media Ban! Making Sense of the War Between Trump and the Press
Dave Lindorff
Resume Inflation at the NSC: Lt. General McMaster’s Silver Star Was Essentially Earned for Target Practice
Conn Hallinan
Is Trump Moderating US Foreign Policy? Hardly
Norman Pollack
Political Castration of State: Militarization of Government
Kenneth Surin
Inside Dharavi, a Mumbai Slum
Lawrence Davidson
Truth vs. Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Extradition Saga of Kim Dotcom
Robert Fisk
Why a Victory Over ISIS in Mosul Might Spell Defeat in Deir Ezzor
David Swanson
Open Guantanamo!
Ted Rall
The Republicans May Impeach Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Why Should Trump―or Anyone―Be Able to Launch a Nuclear War?
Andrew Stewart
Down with Obamacare, Up with Single Payer!
Colin Todhunter
Message to John Beddington and the Oxford Martin Commission
David Macaray
UFOs: The Myth That Won’t Die?
Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail