Federalism Now?

Well, Kash is certainly taking the optimistic high road, and in a few more days I’ll likely come to agree with him (in fact, I already do agree with his statement that, “The nation will survive, and recover from the Bush presidency … We’ve already survived four years of more-or-less complete Republican control in Washington.) But for now I’m still angry, and I’m particularly angered by the role bigotry parading as concern over “Moral Values” played in turning the tide in Bush’s favor.

Don’t be fooled. “Moral Values” is a code phrase, at least among a subset of the population, for a set of bigoted beliefs rooted in fear, hatred, and ignorance. Fear of all Muslims. Hatred of gays. Ignorance of, well, many things ranging from the economic risks of soaring deficits to the lack of WMD in Iraq. And it turns out that there’s more of them than there are of us. Writing at Altercation, Charles Pierce explains:

Let’s face it. It’s not Kerry’s fault. It’s not Nader’s fault (this time). It’s not the media’s fault (though they do bear a heavy responsibility for much of what ails our political system). It’s not “our” fault either. The problem is just this: Slightly more than half of the citizens of this country simply do not care about what those of us in the “reality-based community” say or believe about anything.

They don’t care that Iraq is turning into murderous quicksand and a killing field for our children. They don’t care that the Bush presidency has made us less safe by creating more terrorists, inspiring more anti-American hatred and refusing to engage in the hard work that would be necessary to make a meaningful dent in our myriad vulnerabilities at home. They don’t care that he has mortgaged our children’s future to give trillions to the wealthiest among us. They don’t care that the economy continues to hemorrhage well-paying jobs and replace them with Wal-Mart; that the number without health insurance is over forty million and rising. They don’t care that Medicare premiums are rising to fund the coffers of pharmaceutical companies. They don’t care that the air they breathe and the water they drink is being slowly poisoned and though they call themselves conservatives, they even don’t care that the size of the government and its share of our national income has increased by roughly a quarter in just four years. This is not a world of rational debate and issue preference.

Well said. It was this very realization that inspired my first post-election post, Karl Rove Is an Evil Genius, in which I basically advocated a mini-secession by the Blue states. Well, not so much a secession as an extreme form of federalism in which the wealthy states (i.e., Blue) stop subsidizing the poor states (guess which color), and then spend the savings in a way consistent with their own priorities and values. I think it actually could be done to some extent; all the Democrats have to do is embrace the Republican’s rhetoric and turn it, judo style, against them. In the comments to the earlier post, Roger (who also has a blog) gave a great example of what I mean:

Actually, it will be relatively easy to cut off the spigot to the Red states. Simply stop resisting the reactionary tax cuts Bush wants. Do you think the cut on dividend taxes flowed Red? No way — Krugman had an op ed piece comparing how that cut brought money into New Jersey and away from Mississippi.

The investors simply live in the Blue states. The argument against cutting taxes for investors was a class based one — but if the Southern working poor vote for their own impoverishment just so they can punish infidels, well — it might be time to let them get what they have so devoutly wished for.

Another measure Blue states could take is to abolish sales taxes and replace them with income taxes, which are deducted from federal taxable income. Is this really a good idea? In an ideal world, or even just a reality-based one, I don’t think so. But if the alternative is more of what we’ve had the last four years and will have for at least the next four, then it just might be second-best, which is a term economists use for “the optimal policy when the true optimum (the first best) is unavailable due to constraints on policy choice.”

But as Kash points out, life does go on and I’ve got a conference to get ready for. I’m going to give this some more thought.