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

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail