www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Embarrassing economists -10/24/2014, 9:13 AM

Sherow for House -10/24/2014, 9:13 AM

It can't get crazier (wanna bet?) -10/24/2014, 9:04 AM

Digital distractions -10/23/2014, 10:01 AM

Orman for Senate -10/23/2014, 10:01 AM

Federal persecutors -10/23/2014, 10:00 AM

Kids do count -10/22/2014, 10:31 AM

Needing the past in the future? -10/22/2014, 10:31 AM

In praise of hunting -10/22/2014, 10:30 AM

What is a CID? Will it work for mall? -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Judging importance on the ballot -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Kansas Speaks -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Paying for schools -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Joining forces for Orman -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Research before voting -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Davis is moderate? -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

The most important election in your lifetime -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Huelskamp stands out -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Kansas farm interests -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Keeping unfounded reports from 'going viral' -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

The age of cynicism -10/18/2014, 9:02 AM

Preventable diseases -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Second term needed -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Kansans deserve better -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Officially killing Americans -10/17/2014, 10:27 AM

New era at FHSU -10/16/2014, 10:01 AM

Roberts is right choice -10/16/2014, 10:01 AM

Crumbling Constitution -10/16/2014, 9:52 AM

Redbelly's future -10/16/2014, 9:52 AM

Kansas deserves better -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

Remember to vote on Nov. 4 -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

You almost feel sorry for Sean Groubert -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

Register to vote -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

Living on that 70 percent -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

New bullying problem for schools: parents -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

Cheerios, marriage equality, the Supreme Court -10/13/2014, 9:49 AM

Wedded bliss -10/12/2014, 5:54 PM

Who is the real fraud? -10/12/2014, 5:08 PM

Teenagers 'make some noise' -10/12/2014, 5:08 PM

Not so private property -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Federal funding -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Teacher indoctrination -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Vote Republican -10/9/2014, 9:49 AM

Non-partisan politics -10/9/2014, 9:49 AM

Teen driver safety week Oct. 19 to 25 -10/9/2014, 9:04 AM

FHSU party -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Poverty in America -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Let the women serve -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Time for new direction -10/8/2014, 9:49 AM

Improving Kansas economically -10/8/2014, 9:35 AM

Water abusers -10/8/2014, 9:35 AM

Play safe on the farm -10/8/2014, 9:34 AM

Where the money comes from -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

The president's security -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

Marriage equality -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

The sins of the father are visited -10/6/2014, 9:02 AM

Cannabis in America: The bottom line -10/6/2014, 9:20 AM

A reason to celebrate -10/6/2014, 9:20 AM

Gov. shields wealthy from paying for schools -10/5/2014, 2:07 PM

Passionate protest in defense of civil disorder -10/5/2014, 2:07 PM

October is time for baseball and, of course, film premieres -10/4/2014, 2:16 PM

Alley cleanup -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

Will the West defend itself? -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

Find another school -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

It's better now -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

The answer is to bomb Mexico? -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

Falling revenue -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

School facilities -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Look ahead, not back -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Secret Service needs to step up its game -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Roosevelts were true leaders -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

Moral bankruptcy -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

Expect some sort of change in Topeka -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

'A tale of two countries' -9/29/2014, 9:59 AM

The last of the Willie Horton ads? -9/29/2014, 9:59 AM

Finding answers to the future of Kansas -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

College: Where religious freedom goes to die -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

Honoring Hammond -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

Do statistical disparities mean injustice? -9/26/2014, 9:53 AM

World university rankings -9/26/2014, 9:52 AM

Kansas experiment -9/26/2014, 9:52 AM

Two anti-choice parties -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Not in the same old Kansas anymore -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Domestic violence -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Back to war we go -9/24/2014, 9:55 AM

Piling on the NFL -9/24/2014, 9:54 AM

Emma Watson looking for a few good men -9/24/2014, 9:54 AM

Renter runaround -9/23/2014, 7:32 PM

Enough is enough -9/23/2014, 9:02 AM

Life of politics in the state -9/23/2014, 9:02 AM

What is and is not child abuse -9/22/2014, 9:30 AM

Cannabis politics and research -9/22/2014, 9:30 AM

Future of The Mall -9/21/2014, 6:14 PM

Multiculturalism is a failure -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

State education rankings -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

Kobach gone wild -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

Bias prevents civil discussion of education issues -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Immigration is American -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Costs to states not expanding Medicaid -9/17/2014, 10:14 AM

Medicare threats -9/17/2014, 10:12 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

The grand experiment of federalism

Published on -1/6/2013, 8:18 AM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

Last week, we spent a few days in Seattle, with its short days and chilly drizzle. Nothing remarkable, really. Well, save that same-sex couples can get married and that marijuana is legal.

Oh yeah, the city is enjoying a huge economic expansion. (Gov. Brownback, take note.)

In Providence, gay couples can marry; in Denver, you can light up a joint; and, in Seattle, you can do both.

Flying back to Kansas, I thought a lot about the continuing strength of federalism in a country whose national government has grown consistently stronger for more than a century and increasingly dysfunctional for the last 20 years, to say nothing of the last 20 days.

Washington state can experiment on the left, while Arizona and other states (thanks, Kris Kobach) can seek to use state laws to restrict illegal immigration, historically the responsibility of the federal government.

While Kansas cuts it taxes, at least for the wealthy, Californians are raising theirs, as the state addresses huge deficits. At the same time, California is implementing its own cap-and-trade carbon legislation, while Kansas continues to push for a new coal-fired power plant.

Nine states permit same-sex marriage, but the constitutions in 23 others ban it altogether. Eighteen states permit the use of medical marijuana, while many of the others incarcerate individuals for possessing even small amounts.

In this era of blue states and red states, when like-minded people tend to cluster together, the United States of America might be less "united" than we think.

The federal government has long used its taxing, spending and regulatory powers to enforce national standards, and often this makes sense on issues ranging from environmental rules to securities regulation to airport security.

Still, even when the federal government offers powerful financial incentives -- as with the strings attached to highway funds that coerced every state to raise its drinking age to 21 a generation ago -- many states are saying "no thanks," especially for Obamacare-mandated health care exchanges and Medicaid expansion.

For the most part, I find the Brownback administration's unwillingness to work with the federal government on health care exchanges (and probably Medicaid) as problematic for Kansans.

Nevertheless, the governor and many of his colleagues are acting within a federal system, in which we do get to experiment with policies, even if it means rejecting the admittedly addictive lure of federal dollars.

We'll see if being able to light a joint in Seattle or consummate same-sex marriage in Baltimore will affect life in those cities very much. Will major income tax cuts in Kansas bring us prosperity, or just reduce public services even more? Will a tax increase in California stop its economy from growing or reverse its failures on education and infrastructure?

As the Obama administration experiments with health care and grants waivers to many states to implement their own systems, we'll see which ones produce the best results.

The federal government does continue to play a major role, even on issues over which the states disagree. Thus, on issues such as same-sex marriage, marijuana and immigration, it must provide clear rulings on the division of state and national responsibilities.

Federalism celebrates our diversity, and that's good, but we also need to be able to learn from our state-by-state experiments. To do that, we need to look at the results with clear eyes and clear heads, not just through ideological lenses.

Moreover, we are the United States of America. That means that governors and state legislators cannot seek some "soft secession" from their responsibilities as Americans. National laws require adherence, even when unpopular. Indeed, especially when they are unpopular.

So let the experiments continue, but in the spirit of one nation, indivisible. And yes, one nation under God, with all of us pulling -- more or less -- in the same direction.

Burdett Loomis is a political science professor at the University of Kansas. For the next five months, he will be exploring federalism in Australia as Fulbright Chair in American Politics.

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News