26 May 2008

What ever happened to states' rights?

The Republicans have been so amazingly nimble politically from - what would you say? - 1995 to 2005? - that books will be written a hundred years from now on what they wrought during this crucial time. If, of course, their anti-family-planning, anti-environmental, pro-sprawl, pro-greed, you're-on-your-own polarizing policies haven't precluded publishing.

A NYT opinion piece on states rights offers a chapter of examples on how the right wing, that mighty protector of states rights, has been studiously and quietly stripping the states of their right to protect their citizens.
In February, the day after his infamous encounter at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel, Eliot Spitzer, then the governor of New York, published a remarkable opinion piece in The Washington Post.

He wrote that several years earlier, state attorneys general noticed a spike in predatory lending that the federal government was doing nothing about. When the states tried to rein in abusive mortgage lenders, the Bush administration finally did something. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued rules nullifying state predatory lending laws over the objection of all 50 state banking superintendents.

The clampdown, which paved the way for the subprime mortgage crisis, was done by “pre-emption,” a little-understood doctrine that allows the federal government to wipe away state laws. The Constitution’s supremacy clause says federal law can trump state law. But the federal rule should be a floor, not a ceiling. It should set a minimum level of rights, not stop states from doing more to protect their citizens.
That's just one of 50 examples in an Associated Press report that also includes safety rules for chemical plants, head restraints in autos, abusive Medicare marketing, and curbing greenhouse gases.

One would assume the current makeup of the Supreme Court backs these new rules. That's a Supreme Court John McCain has said he'd strengthen.

1 comment:

Doug Bremner said...

Good points. Here is another preemption nightmare looming on the horizon. The government wants preemption to apply to liability for prescription medications, so that they can say that the FDA has final say, and that drug companies won't be liable in state courts for any drug disasters if something was approved by the FDA.