The Cliff’s Notes for my post from yesterday subtitled “Does Romney’s Economic Plan Violate State Sovereignty?”*

The post garnered only one comment, from kharris, who complained that the post was incomprehensible and asked whether it was intended as facetious, and whether I could give a Cliff’s Notes version of it.  I can and did.  I wrote:

[The] post was not intended as facetious, although I’m sure it will be taken that way by the few people who read it.

Basically, the 26 state attorneys general are claiming in that lawsuit that the part of the ACA that relies on a significant increase in Medicaid, funded mostly by the federal government but partly by the states, violates the Tenth Amendment, which the political right claims gives states autonomy amounting to sovereignty not much different than the sovereignty of foreign countries vis-à-vis the U.S. government.

Their claim is that while the state governments are legally entitled to withdraw from the Medicaid program, politically that’s not a feasible option, because Medicaid is a popular program.  This means that the ACA’s requirement that the states spend more in order to remain in the Medicaid program and receive the federal funds they currently receive, the states will have to spend more of their own money on Medicaid in order to meet the requirements of the ACA.

The states claim that this additional requirement is large enough to require states to have to substantially reduce the appropriations for other priorities, such as education, and that therefore the ACA’s Medicaid expansion basically controls the budget process of state legislatures, and in this way unconstitutionally infringes on state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment.

Enter Romney, and the economic/budget plan he announced last Friday, in which he would cut taxes across the board by 20%, cut corporate taxes by even more (I think), eliminate the estate tax, increase defense spending, leave Medicare and Social Security untouched, and “return Medicaid to the states,” and “send” the other safety-net programs for the poor “to the states” as well.  In other words, he plans to end federal funding for Medicaid and all the other programs.

Which according to the states’ argument in the ACA litigation, would violate the states’ sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment.

So, no, the original post was not intended as facetious.  The post was hard to understand, in part at least because the legal argument of the 26 states is ridiculous.  Yet the Supreme Court agreed to consider the states’ argument.

But a more important point is this: The economic/budget plan that Romney announced last Friday in an attempt to gain Tea Party support in Michigan would cut taxes by 20% across the board, eliminate the estate taxes, cut corporate taxes still further, and balance the budget, if it does, by entirely removing federal funding of all safety-net programs for the poor and telling the states that they should pick up the slack. More than half the states are claiming to the Supreme Court that this would violate the Tenth Amendment, because at least one of these programs, Medicaid, is too popular for it to be politically feasible to end it. 

The Supreme Court almost certainly won’t buy the argument, but what matters is that the states have made the argument.  And have made the point.

Also what matters, of course, is that someone who’s running for president on a claim to be exceptionally astute on business/economic/budget matters should have resisted the urge to put forward a budget proposal that bizarre and easily deconstructed by, well, almost anyone.
*Ooops. Romney did discuss cutting Social Security benefits in that speech last Friday, by raising the retirement cap.  Seems I was almost as distracted by the empty stadium as most of the news media was, and missed that.  But Gail Collins noticed, and noticed that rest of the news media didn’t notice.

Collins also discusses the payroll tax cap.  And Seamus, of course.