When States Rights Are Wrong
The United States has lately become increasingly divided into states seeking to treat members of their population as deserving of fair and equal treatment under the law and those wishing to discriminate against some and in favor of others based on arbitrary characteristics such as race, gender, ethnic group, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation. This trend alarms many who see being a citizen of the United States as becoming less important to their lives and livelihoods than the state in which they happen to reside.
A person, regardless of any of the aforementioned characteristics they may exhibit, is deserving of health care, education, employment, food, clothing, safety and shelter as well as the opportunity to pursue personal fulfillment and express themselves through speech, assembly and the ballot box. These rights should not be curtailed based on the physical location they happen to reside in within the country’s borders. Actually, the country they live in shouldn’t matter in this regard,either, but since we currently live in a world governed my nation-states, I guess we have to deal with the differences that exist in countries we have no voice in.
Many of the differences in state laws in recent years have come about in reaction to movements at the national and the state level seeking to codify these rights for all. Court decisions and state law changes restricting rights of many to vote or enabling people to expressly discriminate against various groups have sprung up and produced a marked regression in the direction that many states have taken in recent years. Some are bucking trends in other states to increase freedom and rights for people who have faced unfair discrimination in the past. These groups include a majority of the population, of course, as they include women.
Often, a preferred tactic taken in writing repressive legislation is to call a law something which is the direct opposite of both its intended purpose and its ultimate effect on the people.it is directed towards. Thus, the Defense of Marriage Act was aimed at preventing anyone not engaged in a heterosexual relationship from marrying or obtaining any of the benefits that accrue to that status in our society. Likewise, Voter ID laws in some states restricted those unable to obtain certain identifying documentation from voting, regardless of whether or not they had been permitted to do so in the past.
Many states have also passed so-called “Right to Work” laws, which are accurately labeled “Right to Work for Less” laws, because they hamstring worker organizations’ ability to collectively bargain for workers with their employers for their wages and working conditions. This gives much power to the employers and increasingly less power to the employees, resulting in a situation where worker incomes and benefits get slashed as company profits and salaries at the top skyrocket. Increasingly, these laws have included public sector as well as private sector employees. This is also a major rollback of New Deal era worker rights legislation.
Reproductive rights have become a center of attention for the religious right and their political spokespeople. Many are claiming that even providing contraception violates their strongly held religious beliefs. The so-called “Right to Life” movement is basically endorsing a right to be born, but no rights after that. The same folks who want government to stop people from terminating pregnancies (some even after the death of the mother), believe it is immoral for government to intervene to insure the health and wellbeing of those children after they are born. Thus, we see such progressive safety net programs as food stamps and early childhood education being slashed for poor children. Many programs built during the New Deal, Civil Rights movement and War on Poverty have been decimated in recent budget-cutting frenzies that have barely addressed issues pertaining to the other sides of the budgetary spending equation, such as unnecessary tax breaks and subsidies for the wealthy and those who “earn” their income by other than wages and salaries, the subsidies paid to highly profitable and polluting corporations and a bloated military establishment.
Perhaps the most blatant areas where this unequal treatment of American citizens is currently taking place is in the health care arena and has been caused by both a Supreme Court decision and Republican dominated state legislatures. The unwillingness of about half of the states to accept Medicaid expansion for their people under the ACA has resulted in a coverage gap for millions of people living in those states who are neither poor enough to qualify for Medicaid under the old state rules or to qualify for Federal subsidies to help pay for their insurance premiums. In essence, these states are telling the Federal Government they will not accept the federal funds to pay for the expansion because the Supreme Court ruled they can’t be forced to do so. Those paying in reality are the individuals and families who remain uninsured and the hospitals and other providers who end up footing the bill when they show up at the emergency room with no insurance coverage requiring medical treatment that could have been prevented or more efficiently and humanely administered before they became emergencies.
I do not understand the mentality of those who preach alleged “Christian” values wanting to punish children for the alleged sins of their parents or deny people the resources to improve their lives because they are unfortunate enough not to be born under good economic circumstances. I do not understand the desire of so many in government to hypocritically force their morality on others, regardless of how little effect the others’ lifestyle has on their own rights. It is insanity on the one hand to oppose abortion and then refuse to make affordable the means to prevent pregnancy to begin with. Big government opponents who want to become involved in people’s sex lives are hypocritical enough as it is. Preaching abstinence is fine, but if you want fewer unwanted pregnancies it doesn’t do the trick and never has. Restricting access to women’s health services as many states have done recently primarily affects the poor. Those with the means to do so just travel to where they can receive the treatment.
Many of the states currently jumping on the right to work and voter restriction bandwagons appear to be doing so as a blatant attempt to retain control of their part of the government at any cost. It does not promote democracy either in the public sphere or at work, both of which should be sought in the furtherance of justice and fairness. Maintaining control over the many for the benefit of a few was not a stated goal of our forefathers as interpreted by the Declaration of Independence or even the Constitution as amended in the many years since it was written. Taking the vote away from minority group members, the poor, young and elderly, and not enforcing the rights of workers to fair wages and decent treatment at the hands of their employers should not be permissible in any state in this country or any country in the world.
States Rights are fine and dandy, as are local community ordinances when it comes to matters that better meet the unique needs of a locale and do not require federal assistance to administer, but when inherent rights that should be afforded to all are under attack in certain areas or states, the states must be required to toe the line and uphold them as well. We tried a country that permitted certain states to allow some people to be owned by others. That didn’t work out so well in retrospect. Allowing states to give rights and privileges to whites or rich people which they do not allow to others and which negatively affect individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not desirable and should not be permitted to continue in a free and just society. I hope to be a member of such a society one day.