Forum

More state power solves divisive issues

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With the recent failure of the Congressional “supercommittee” tasked with making progress toward solving our deficit problem, many Americans are getting frustrated with Congress’ seeming inability to do anything productive. Republicans won’t consider tax increases of any kind on any group, especially when taxes are already legislated to rise across the board in a year, and Democrats won’t consider structural reforms to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. As our nation approaches an important crossroads where the two warring factions have very different visions about a future America, politicians are looking more and more toward the 2012 election to see which future Americans will choose.

I believe that this divisiveness could be solved by delegating more powers to the states, so that more geographically centered majorities who are national minorities can have the power to legislate for themselves without affecting or being affected by the will of people with exceptionally different sets of values.

According to realclearpolitics.com, 73.5 percent of Americans think that the country is “headed in the wrong direction.” Congressional approval ratings are even lower, with 81.7 percent of the U.S. disapproving of Congress.

Yet though the country seems to agree that something needs to change, polling results show that we are nearly evenly divided when it comes to how that change is to take place. Nearly 50 percent of Americans are going to vote Democratic, and 50 percent will vote Republican. Though this may change as the election draws near and the GOP’s presidential candidate becomes clearer, returning federal powers to the states will result in a satisfactory compromise for both parties.

Right now, Democrats envision a country that offers lots of benefits to its citizens but totes high, redistributive taxes. On the other hand, Republicans want low, flatter taxes, but are willing to live without the governmental benefits. Right now, we’re trying to get the best of both worlds: lower taxes with high benefits. This leaves us with lots of deficit spending, which is an unsustainable course of action. Yet these parties are fairly locally concentrated, with the North and West being largely Democratic and the South and Midwest being largely Republican.

Instead of having the federal government force some unsatisfactory compromise on the entire electorate, by removing some of its power, we can let local majorities who are national minorities make decisions for themselves.

This also allows states to compete in the sense that they can act as a marketplace for governing ideas without detriment to the country as a whole. More and more states can adopt successful measures until they become de facto federal laws. Though not all federal powers would be delegated to the states, the electorate would be more satisfied with our government if states had significantly more control over policy.

Others suggest that this system would break down our government because the states and the people within them already depend on the federal government so much. I believe that if the shift were to take place gradually and incrementally, taxes could be phased out of the federal level and into the state level while services would do the same. As long as the process is gradual, people will become accustomed to the new system without much detriment.

Another counterargument is that this system would increase factions within the U.S., creating a more divisive and unproductive federal government. I disagree with this point because federal officials are already elected state-by-state. Taking power from the federal government wouldn’t change existing partisanship, but it would give a more diverse body of officials less divisive issues to worry about, and it would increase the government’s productivity.