Killing legitimate rights to invent progressive rights

The lede to this article intrigued me.

Liberals and Democrats in search of new ideas might surprise everyone by embracing the cause of states’ rights.

I’m sure this would just be an opportunity to play progressive politics locally, instead of the prudishness played out nationally. While I agree that states can work towards better solutions (not best – try private) than the federal government, due to nothing more than closer proximity to the problems (ditto local versus state), I was right to doubt this article. Consider:

Contrast this week in our nation’s capital with the week in Boston, capital of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Congress was solving the enormously important problem of making sure that wealthy Americans can continue to pay low taxes on their dividends and capital gains.

Phrase the issue that way and I know that ideology is more important than solving the problem, regardless of the rhetoric attached to the proposal. I’ve already addressed this in the past, but here it is again. Just because a tax cut is likely to affect the wealthy, that does not mean it’s inherently bad. Unless you like socialism, in which case you’re doubly wrong. Middle-class Americans own investments and receive dividends. They pay taxes, as well. How you frame the question shows exactly the outcome you want. For me, it would be based on principle. I happen to like “keep what you earn” more than “don’t make too much”.

Still, you can’t require people to buy insurance if they can’t afford it. That’s where Salvatore DiMasi, the Massachusetts House speaker and a Democrat, came in. He suggested combining an individual mandate with an assessment on employers who do not cover their employees. Most conservatives hate “employer mandates,” but why should employers who insure their workers provide an indirect subsidy to employers who don’t?

Why should employers who reach an (implicit or explicit) agreement with their workers that cash is the best benefit be punished for coming to a different conclusion than the socialists? They don’t force other employers to provide health insurance and shouldn’t be punished for having the intelligence to try a better way. The social contract is a larger culprit for our problems than the free market’s “failure” to provide every worker employer-sponsored health insurance. Which brings us to this:

… The federal government should solve problems or, failing that, give states the room, the incentives and the opportunities to solve problems for themselves. It’s amazing what local politicians can accomplish when good ideas and skilled agitators come together.

Only as a last resort should the federal government get out of the way. And only if they get out of the way for state and local governments. Brilliant. This is statism, not states’ rights.

More thoughts at Cato @ Liberty