Evading the government

Have you ever heard the expression “history repeats itself?”The debate over universal health care has brought us right back to where we started a century and a half ago.The year 1861 marked the explosion of debate over individual state rights versus the federal law. Instead of health care, the argument was over slavery. You may also know this time as the Civil War.Several republican political leaders and small groups of activists are trying to resurrect their secessionist ways by amending state constitutions in order to stop the proliferation of mandatory health care as stated in President Obama’s health care bill.These amendments were first introduced in 2008 in Arizona and other western states where they originated, but they were defeated by a narrow margin.The tenacious republican senators were not deterred and recently have voted to reintroduce the amendments as a referendum in 2010.Referendums are a double-edged sword. On one hand, they give power directly to the people.  On the other, people are often ill-informed about the issues.If every issue came to a referendum, we would have no taxes, no funding for government programs, schools or hospitals.In this sense, these prospective referendums are seen by many as not just a way to fight health care, but a way to undermine the federal government.In The New York Times on Wednesday, Sept. 30, Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute, a conservative lobbyist group, admitted that these amendments should not technically be constitutionally viable.The Supremacy Clause of Article VI of our Constitution states:”This Constitution … shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”Instead of abiding by the Constitution, Bolick intends to use the power of the conservative legislative activists on the Supreme Court to bolster state power.Some may argue that the power of the federal government over the state is not a black-and-white issue, but clearly the Constitution begs to differ.These blatant deceptive tactics show just how far some people are willing to go to fight any form of government-run institution.Of course state referendums have been shown to be useful on issues that only affect the state. In Vermont, for example, referendums have been used to make Chinese an optional language of study in secondary schools. However, on issues of national importance, federal power should always hold sway over state governments.In our modern war of states’ rights versus federal power, we find ourselves facing volleys of legal jargon instead of confederate cannons in the battle over universal health care.Ultimately, in order to make progress, we must cut through the impenetrable mess of politics and realize that the federal government, for better or for worse, is given constitutional power over the states.