States to Feds: Drop Dead


Very interesting piece by USA Today's Dennis Cauchon about how the states are increasingly fed up with federal policies–and are doing something about it:

A new era of activism by state governments has arrived. Unhappy with what's happening in Washington, governors, legislatures and state attorneys general are leading a charge to set the national agenda on issues from health care to pollution control to securities regulation.

The new initiatives are largely liberal challenges to conservative policies adopted in Washington by the Republican-controlled Congress and White House. The activist states, mostly in the North and West, have the pharmaceutical industry, Wall Street and other institutions on the defensive in a way that threatens to undermine interest groups' political success in the nation's capital.

Cauchon makes several interesting observations throughout: that this is a reversal of traditional political roles between libs and cons; that the one catch of the new initiatives is that they can't be based on increasing taxes; that this is happening precisely at the moment that the GOP controls more states than the Dems in fifty years; and that the states are trying to dictate national policy via state capitols.

On the last point, he quotes American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Greve:

"States are trying to pre-empt Congress on national issues, and it's quite dangerous….An attorney general can jump into an issue, put on a white hat and lead a crusade while everyone else sits around doing nothing….The result usually is bad policy that legislatures don't even vote on….Price regulation will be signed and sealed in some courthouse in Carson City (Nev.) rather than in Washington, D.C."