Palin, Perry, Romney, and Pleading the Tenth

by Whitney Pitcher

Federalism is a constitutional principle based in the 10th amendment that notes  powers not given to the United States nor denied to the individual states are given to the states and their people. It seems, though, some governors in the presidential race use this as a justification for implementing bad, government expanding policy in their individual states. Of course, states do have the right to implement their own laws and policies, but just as Governor Palin has said in response to President Obama’s policies, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.

Governor Romney often uses the federalism justification to defend his government mandated healthcare reform, arguing that states are supposed to be “laboratories of democracy”, while at the same time, criticizing President Obama’s federal mandate.  It should be noted  that while he now defends hi s policies on the basis of federalism, he did not have a problem receiving massive amounts of federal dollars to pay for his plan. A report published in June by Suffolk University in Massachusetts notes:

The federal government continues to absorb a significant cost of health care reform through enhanced Medicaid payments and the Medicare program.   Health care reform has also increased the rate for Medicare Advantage plans in Massachusetts, which has contributed to an increase in Medicare health care expenditures through prices for medical service delivery.

The study also noted that federal government spent an additional $2.418 billion in Medicaid payments and nearly $1.5 billion in Medicare expenditures, which account for 45% of the costs in its first five years of implementation. Why was someone who defends their policies on the basis of federalism so dependent upon federal funding (and the attached federal requirements) to implement their policies?

Governor Perry is another governor who defends his government expanding state policies, but wouldn’t support a similar federal law. Governor Perry passed a law which allow illegal immigrants to receive in state tuition at Texas universities if they lived in Texas for 3 years, graduated from a Texas high school, an were on a path to citizen ship.  On the Mark Levin show on Thursday, Perry said that he is “absolutely against the DREAM act”. The DREAM Act, which Governor Palin also opposes, is a federal program that grants eventually citizenship to illegal immigrants who complete some level of post-secondary education or military service. After a certain length of time, such students would be eligible for Pell grants and student loans.  Perry also goes on to say that children “shouldn’t be punished for a decision their parents made” and that such decisions should be a “state by state issue”.  Perry says that no one should be punished for someone else’s mistake, but that same principle should be applied to legal immigrants who are abiding by the rules (and paying out-of-state tuition). Are not legal immigrants, who are abiding by the rules, being “punished” when illegal immigrants are receiving preferable treatment? Is it fair to Texas taxpayers who are essentially subsidizing education for illegal immigrants to the tune of more than $30 million in financial aid between 2004 and 2008? Legal immigration is one of the most beautiful things about America. Our melting pot of cultures is what makes America the greatest country in the world, but so does the fact that we are a nation of laws.

Governor Palin, on the other hand, used her gubernatorial tenure to reduce the state’s dependency on federal dollars, rather than increase dependency under the pretzel logic federalism justification like Governor Romney. She reduced federal earmarks by 86% during her tenure by also drastically reducing the number of projects that were federally funded. In addition to this, she used federalism properly. Rather than use it as an argument to defend bad state policy, she used it to protect her state from bad federal policy. Governor Palin twice sued the federal government of their use of the Endangered Species Act to protect areas against oil development. In 2008, Governor Palin sued the federal government over the listing of the polar bear as “threatened” which would require a more stringent review process before resource development would be allowed. In 2009, she sued again—this time over the endangered status of beluga whales in Cook Inlet, which also stood as a road block to development. Governor Palin also used federalism to defend Alaska’s right to establish education standards that were best for Alaska, rather than accept the “one-size-fits-all” federal standards of the Obama administration. Governor Palin noted in a March 2009 press release:

“Alaska’s decision not to participate until after we monitor this is based on our desire to spend our time and public resources to improve instruction in the classroom and to form productive relationships between schools and the communities they serve,” Governor Palin said. “If this initiative produces useful results, Alaska will remain free to incorporate them in our own standards.”

[…]

“The State of Alaska fully believes that schools must have high expectations of students,” Governor Palin said. “But high expectations are not always created by new, mandated federal standards written on paper. They are created in the home, the community and the classroom.”

To his credit, Governor Perry also rejected the federal education standards as well as Race to the Top funding, as Governor Palin did. However, some other federally funded and mandatory coursework in Texas has been questioned.

When it comes to be people seeking to serve in an office which requires you to swear an oath to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States”, it would behoove such individuals to understand the proper application of the principles of the Constitution and its amendments. The Constitution should not be used for a defense of bad policy; it should be used as a blueprint for proper governance and the implementation of good policy. 

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