So, You No Longer Want to Be Part of the Union?

Quick – What makes living in cities and towns full of modern convenience in the middle of the desert possible?  Especially when your only real industry, besides mining, is tourism.  And the tourism is mainly because of Grand Canyon National Park.   The Federal government makes it possible.  Arizona doesn’t enjoy quite the disparity that Alaska or even New Mexico does but Arizona still receives about $1.19 from the Federal Government for every $1.00 it pays in.  Any economist will tell you that means Arizona gets more than it pays for.  That’s why we are the United States of America.  Most states receive more than they pay in Federal taxes, but that’s the beauty of this ongoing experiment – we’re in it together, one nation.

What makes Arizona different from most states is that the other 49 haven’t yet tried to secede while still receiving Federal largesse.  Which is exactly what the State Senate Majority Leader in Arizona is proposing to do.  Armed with a thorough misunderstanding of the Constitution and it’s twenty-seven amendments, State Sen. Russell Pearce (yes, that Russell Pearce) has decided that he’s going to do something about Federal laws he doesn’t like.  You might think that means he’ll run for Congress or lobby Arizona’s Congressional Delegation.  But no.

He and a few co-sponsors have decided that “the Joint Legislative Committee on the Nullification of Federal Laws” will “call for a vote by a simple majority…to nullify in its entirety a specific Federal law or regulation…that is outside of the scope of powers delegated by…the Constitution…”  Using the Tenth Amendment (The powers not delegated to the United States…are reserved to the States respectively…) as a guide, Mr. Pearce and his cosponsors would take “Don’t Tread on Me” to places not seen since the 19th century.  In doing so they ignore the Supremacy Clause as well as the Fourteenth Amendment in order to make their point.

I think we should embrace this.  Let Arizona invalidate Federal laws and regulations that it doesn’t like. When they do we’ll stop sending Federal highway money to the state.  We’ll end funding for stimulus projects in Arizona.  Since it’s a national park, we’ll find a way to make tourist dollars from the Grand Canyon go back the Feds.  We can also stop Medicaid payments.  We can go tit for tat.  If other states want to follow suit (I’m looking at you, Montana), let them.

There are times when we are 50 states.  Most of the time we are one country.  That’s how it works.  We are one society with a diverse set of Peoples and beliefs.  It’s democracy and pluralism – it’s a bedrock principle.  We make deals and we compromise to come to the broadest agreement possible.  This is how we come to the social contract that ensures we move forward together.  We can and should disagree and debate – vehemently.  What we can’t do is go it alone.

That doesn’t mean that states can’t have their own constitutions or laws on the books that address their unique needs and circumstances.  They do, because no state is the same.  Unfortunately, for Mr. Pearce and his compadres, states can’t invalidate federal law just because certain people in the state don’t like it.  Even in the reddest or bluest state you’ll find a group of liberals or conservatives.  That’s life in a democratic society.  Besides, if we follow Mr. Pearce’s logic to it’s conclusion, can a New Mexico choose not to honor the  Full Faith and Credit Clause and not recognize Arizona’s laws because Arizona invalidated Federal Law?  I think Mr. Pearce would have something to say about that.

Even if it passes it will most likely be ruled unconstitutional.  So it seems silly to get worked up about this.  But, it comes down to this: we need leaders who are going to lead.  It’s one thing for an elected official to declare that he doesn’t believe in evolution.  There is only so much damage you can do with one vote out of 435, even if you’re on a committee that deals with science funding.  We have a problem when our leaders propose laws and rules that attack the very being of the country.  We can’t have elected officials willing to ignore our laws and waste our time doing it.  We have to fight back against stupidity like this.

Let’s not let be said of our time that “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity…”

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