Some people, mostly Republicans and Libertarians, keep suggesting returning power to the states on some laws and government systems. The truth is that they are trying to use that rhetoric to attempt to end various programs and laws.
When examined more closely, returning control of many things to states would be disastrous and more expensive than they are now. Not to mention decrease oversight and accountability, leading to higher risk of corruption and fraud. We’ve seen this movie and know the ending.
It would also have ripple effects on the economy of the nation as a whole. Take food stamps as an example. The states that have the highest number of people on public assistance (by percentage) are the poorest states. Those states have the least resources, including education. I won’t bother examining here what the concern for education is in those states. As a result, the more affluent states contribute more to the social support programs in those states. Proponents of ending this system claim the system is unfair but do not realize the benefits which are returned to the more affluent states.
Some of this is a repeat of things I have written before but still relevant to this discussion. When a person spends food stamps, they spend like money does. Each $1 in food stamps does not simply buy food. It pays for jobs across state and national lines. When you spend money or food stamps they pay for cashiers, managers, stock people, maintenance people, delivery drivers, food processors, farmers, ranchers, feed and fertilizer providers, warehouse workers, dock workers and more. Each one of those jobs represents a consumer who pays for goods and services. Groceries, retail sales, vehicles, cell phones.. They are also taxpayers whose taxes pay for road repair and maintenance, libraries, schools and more. Each of those jobs also represent consumers and taxpayers in a system that ideally runs in a cycle.
That cycle extends to gas stations, power generation, sewage and all the employees, vehicles, pipe makers, electrical cable makers, delivery drivers, trains, planes and automobiles involved in producing and delivering supplies for those jobs. Each one a consumer and taxpayer.
Breaking that cycle is narrow minded and does not consider the long range and long term effects. You can apply the same view to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and any other social support system you can name.
The military relies heavily on these very same low income states for recruitment precisely because of the lack of opportunity in those states. Of course, I have detailed before that this is not likely to be such an issue because I expect a draft to be reinstated in the near future. I’ve written about that before, here.
One also has to consider the additional costs involved with expanding or establishing and administrating duplicate systems for the same purposes in each individual state, each with different rules for eligibility. We have enough of a problem with that even with federal rules overseeing social support programs to some degree. Some states would completely eliminate environmental protection regulations, which would have cross-border implications with neighboring states and maybe countries. Then try and apply liability laws to what are currently major violators of those controls.
However, the major thing to consider is that if power is returned to the states while different states do not agree with many federal policies and decisions, there tends to be almost no reason for states to remain member states of the United States. There is increasing risk that states may begin breaking away from the union to form smaller, independent countries, possibly to form a confederation of countries, each with their own government. This risk becomes compounded when considering the move to eliminate the electoral college and increases further if the draft is enacted. Then consider the national debt. If a state breaks away to form their own country, they would no longer be liable for the national debt. They would establish their own currency, to separate their currency from the dollar.
I don’t fully expect any of this to happen until the dollar starts to decline. If they wait and the dollar crashes in value suddenly, countries we owe debt to may not accept the dissolution and could well take steps against the US, legally or militarily. If multiple countries formed a coalition against us in such a situation, it would be grim. Other countries have no obligation to recognize a new currency from a previous state and could appeal to the World Bank, the UN, etc to boycott all American currencies and trade.
To make things worse, the states which would be most likely to secede first would be the most affluent states. Like California, which if ranked as a country would have the sixth largest economy in the world. New York, Florida and Texas would also be candidates for states that could easily survive as independent countries. Ironically, those are also the states that would determine every national election if the electoral college were eliminated.
There is no actual positive to the concept of returning power to the states. This is not the 19th century and even then states were more interconnected than most people understood. Today the states are far more interconnected, though could become disconnected much easier than most assume.
The only thing holding this country together as a nation of states is rhetoric and marketing. If we do separate, it will be into some countries that are strong economies and other countries which have struggling third world status.