Tuesday, March 13, 2012

AMERICAN BOB: "State of Decay"

American Bob sez States' Rights is stupid:

I'm aware that the onscreen-text for the source of the tax-disparity graphic is a lil' blurry; so to read it just go HERE.


David (The Pants) said...

I never got why big government was supposed to be this super scary thing. Isn't it what government should be? Big?

Anonymous said...

You're certainly correct about needing things like education and healthcare to be federally mandated, but states' rights are pretty damn important.

For one thing, each state has different needs. The USA is a pretty big place, and splitting the load of running it is damn effective, or at least it should be on paper anyway.

Think of this, why do we need different minimum wages in NJ and PA? Because they are different places, with different levels of employment and different sales taxes proportional to a different population size. Maine has different industry than California, why does a national government out of touch with the needs of each need to figure out how to run either? If I want a pothole fixed, I'm not going to call Mr.Obama and complain to him, I'm going to walk down the road to my township building and get someone to fix it. That's how local governments work, and for the day to day lives of people living in a community, that kind of thing is vital.

James Vonder Haar said...

Anon post 2 makes a good point. Do you see room for municipal or city government? I'm not sure that it's appropriate for the feds to be deciding whether my city builds a library or a new stadium. In some cases, more local control just makes sense.

But I think you miss a bigger point, which is that the states act as so-called "Laboratories of Democracy." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laboratories_of_democracy. States can try new reforms, and if they don't work out, only one state has temporarily messed up their policy in one area, instead of affecting the whole country. Policies with bad results die out; policies with good results proliferate. Pay attention to your state politics and you'll see just how much of the debate comes from interpreting the data other states have given on that subject (did gay marriage weaken the institution in the states it was passed in?)

I don't have a lot of experience in the policy world, but I did spend a summer interning for a think tank, and I can't tell you how important individual state reform is to the political process. Without it, we'd be flying blind as to whether implementing vouchers were a good idea, whether providing financial incentives for student achievement was a good idea, what size of school district is optimal. Surely some federal standards are nice (no creationism in schools, please), but they shouldn't be running everything.

Laserkid said...

Congratulations, you made a case that there needs to be some federal standards. But as its been pointed out above me, there are VERY good reasons to keep states rights to a certain degree.

More than that, each states needs are VERY different. Having lived in four different states in my life (three of which would now be considered blue states and one thats now considered red), each and every one had different rules for different reasons that made sense in the local area.

In California, if theres so much as an inch of snow on the ground schools close up shop because very few people in the warm area know how to drive in snow given the rarity of such amount. Converseley, with three inches of snow in Colorado, the school distrcts laughed at the idea of closing down, its just a little snow for the area. Should California be kept to that same standard given the local drivers general inexperience with snow? Or should Colorado be forced to shut down because of an inch of snow, where they don't generally need help with it. This is just one example of the reason why you need state governments and state rigths to make these calls. Like him, or hate him, Barak Obama has far bigger issues to deal with than setting a national code for when to close for a snow day. ;)

That isn't to say there should be NO standardizartions at the federal level. When it comes to education I honestly look at it as a twofold issue. The federal government should have a standard to follow across the nation, but again, different states have different things to talk about. Wheras both Colorado and California had plenty of historical context to teach about the Gold Rush, in Wisconsin, it really wasn't a big deal - yet understanding how ones local culture has formed can be a vital issue.

These are the types of things that require a state to state determination on what is and isn't important.

Ultimatly, though I can be IMing with my sister in California instantly - we live in very different places with different concerns.

MovieBob said...


You are correct. Which is precisely why my wording was "States' Rights IS stupid" (with quotes on "States' Rights"); because I'm talking about "States' Rights" the argument, not necessarily A State's Rights in all cases.

Anonymous said...

Bob do you really think that individual states should cease to have their own legislatures, and that Washington knows what's best for everybody?

Great idea... because the centralization of power into the hands of fewer people always works out so well doesn't it?

Ryan said...

Meh? Bob...Meh? I am super, super Liberal, and I am annoyed by the things that annoy you (Creationism, Racism, the "insights" of Libertarianism)...but I don't think doing away with State Legislatures is a good plan. Arizona and Massachusetts and Kansas are pretty different from one another in terms of resource management, culture, and economics. It sounds like you're suggesting that they should all become one big monoculture, but that just sounds dangerous to me - local representation is what allows those states to have governance that is responsive to their individual needs. I agree that the Federal Government ought to be able to hijack State power in some cases - Civil Rights come immediately to mind - but, for example, Federally mandated school curriculum across the board is a dangerous idea because the schools that will have to apply that curriculum don't have the same resources, expertise, or funding due to public schools being financed on a local level by property taxes - a national standard sets them up to fail. Of course, we could fix that by eliminating property taxes and jacking up income taxes...but I'd love to see how that happens in this country.

James said...

So Bob, when are you going to do an episode calling out Obama for the same civil liberties violations you chastized Bush for? Or will you continue to be a hypocrite?

James said...

Again I say: Bob has become a left-wing Limbaugh.

James said...

"What if Bush had done that?" An article looking at the hypocrisy of die-hard Obama supporters like Bob.


Anonymous said...

It amuses me that Americans find this to be such a big issue. Guys, here’s a heads up. Every single country in Europe has some form of localised government, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean that the different areas get to have vastly different laws or regulations. Snow days are NOT a reason to keep localized governments like this. If your central government is really too stupid to delegate responsibility for simple practical needs like deciding how many inches of snow is dangerous to public safety, you have a rather alarming problem.

That’s not a small governments job, that’s a Bureaucrats job, and the only qualification he needs is common sense. Also, suggesting that every building and decision your local community makes has to go through some complicated process in Washington is wilfully ignorant. If its a public state run building there would be some paperwork, maybe a guy would check that its up to code, but this isn’t gonna stall your towns efforts, you are looking at maybe a week or two of extra waiting time before construction starts, which in terms of construction projects, is nothing.

Look, for most intents and purposes, disbanding local governments like this would probably just mean that the apparatus is kept exactly the same, it just has to answer to Washington. The central government cant control every state in detail on a day to day basis, so the logical thing to do is to ask exactly the same people who are working to keep your states infrastructure and legal system running to keep it up. Washington will just want to know what’s going on, and as mentioned by Bob, very important issues like education will no longer be left for the, cough, “better judgement” of the locals. Seems a like a “have your cake and eat it” scenario to me as long as you aren’t a creationist.

Stefan Sasse said...

I absolutely concur. There's a rather big difference between state's rights and a government that virtually regulates everything. Here in Germany, states are also always proud on the polities they have autonomy in (small wonder, it was the Americans who helped draw our constitution), but in most areas it simply sucks. Education is the number one issue where states have total control, and the consequence is that the education your child gets varies greatly, that some states have good, strong universities, while others have none to be spoken of, and so on. Not many people are in the position to move into another state just to give their child a better education, so please spare me the "competition" argument.
Even the argument about being a testing field is flawed. Yes, one should test policies before implementing them on a national level. But why do we have to institutionalize this in the states, so that it applies to everywhing everywhere? Even today, local tests are pretty common, where you try a new school reform in some volunteering schools, evaluate and monitor it for some years and then decide on total implementation. Where exactly do I need to have semi-independent states for this?
The state legislatures just work as small versions for the oh-so-big-federal government (come to Europe and see some really big governments^^). I could make the exact same cases as some critics here for the level on the next lower rung. "Why does the state capitol decide all this? Counties' rights are important!"

CB said...

As a Brit I find it insane that most of these posters take the issue ("States' Rights" as a fundamental, and immutable set of autonomy ensuring priveleges) and then miss the point by wondering about things like how Mr B. O. will possibly fill in your potholes if states lose federated independence?

That is not the issue. The issue as far as I can tell is that the USA's current system does not suit the needs of a modern society where infrastructure in areas like mass communication, and social development, has levelled the playing field. Independent legislature is all well and good when nobody is really travelling/trading/interacting across state lines. As soon as state boundaries cease to mean anything beyond loose cultural ties that are overlayed on arbitrary geographical areas then it seems obvious that the omnipotence of the states is less relevant as a principle than it used to be.

So, never fear, devolution of centralised power in some areas to a local level has always taken place in more centralised coutries (like the UK), where town/municipal and regional councils are responsible for distributing and implementing the funds allocated them by central government in the most effective, and appropriate ways possible for their areas. Why shouldn't a system that removes certain outdated privileges on the one hand, and retains, or reforms, the relevant ones to allow for effective governance work?

Cado said...

It's funny you posted this today. I recently posted on my facebook:

The first step toward fixing the system-and I mean that in the broadest way possible-to make education a right, not a privilege, and to force it on no one. Everything used to enrich and inform an individual should be free straight through college level stuff, and universities should be opened to everyone of any age as cultural centers, debate forums, and lecture halls.

Simply put, becoming an informed, imaginative citizen capable of rigorous intellectual thought shouldn't cost anything. Meritocracy is not a system where you have to pay to climb the ladder, or take on massive debt without guarantees, it should be an even playing field where the basics are taken care of and everything is there if you will use it.

Today, success is primarily defined by one's paycheck, or more cynically one's ability to consume. I want a society where excellence is based on one's achievements, not class. Shower them (researchers, teachers, inventors) with gold-they deserve it, just as everyone deserves information, food, shelter, and medicine. (So long as there's plenty to go around, and in first world countries there is.)

We can fund pointless wars. I don't see why we can't do this instead.

Followed by:

As an addition: no parent should have the right to bar their child from going to these places, either. Religious conservatives don't get to win by actively keeping their children ignorant. It's high time that minors are given more rights, including the ability to earn a living and gain employable skills (through other free outlets) at ages 14 or 16. It's ridiculous that capable people are kept artificially young because our culture has it in their heads that anyone below the age of 18 is irresponsible, and anyone under 25 is unreliable. It's because we make them that way with the common conceptualization of family, childhood, adolescence, and employment/education.

Learning is something that should happen throughout your entire life and if our lives are artificially divided between the period where we go to school and then go to work we all suffer for it. This is not a utopia where humankind repeatedly reaches and surpasses its pinnacle, this is a corporate wasteland and everything suffers because of it.

Cado said...

Let me qualify that latter part: I'm not sure what the best angle is for people under the age of 18. Neuroscience may prove that there are developmental factors which make it wiser to not bestow full legal rights to someone below that age under normal circumstances, but I think that no matter what emancipation needs to be easier; there should be a process in place which, if someone can prove that they're able to earn an income (and they're allowed to learn employable skills through the school system-something above minimum wage that would allow them to develop assets and save for higher education as they go, assuming it's implemented within a system very much like the current one), they are able to step out on their own with or without their parents' approval.

Youth rights are key to defeating right-wing religious extremists because their main strategy for survival at this point is keeping facts from their kids (much like you said). Though most of them wouldn't put it like this, they act like they own the children in their care and have the right to decide what they believe and what they do with their lives. That means if a teenager gets pregnant (because they were taught abstinence only and that contraception is evil) their parents get to decide whether or not they bear that burden for the rest of their lives, not them. The reality is that whether or not someone has met some arbitrary standard of maturity, it isn't right to take those choices away from them. I'm in Michigan and both I and others in my immediate circle have been hugely impacted by the philosophical idiocy of the fundamentalist movement, and my lady is currently going through bureaucratic hell because she had to go to great lengths to escape her crazy parents and she couldn't get her identifying documents before she left. She's at the legal age, she wants to work, but the channels for getting identifying information-even when you have an expired photo ID which reflects your current appearance-are so ridiculously convoluted that it's taken us a few weeks of constant internet searches, phone calls, and in-person visits to the courthouse and DMV to figure out what we can do.

To put it simply the youth are marginalized, which is another laughable hypocrisy considering how often I heard the, "do not look down on someone just because they are young" verse in youth group. There are a lot of people among gen Y who are far more intelligent than their parents, who would love to break away, but either they don't have the resources or they have no idea what exists outside their parents' little bubble. It's a travesty that most of this is legal.

Cado said...

Hate to triple post, but thinking on it the word I was reaching for was autonomy, not rights. Minor nitpick but it changes the reading pretty significantly so I thought I'd point it out.

Anonymous said...

@ James, If "Bush has done that" the Republicans would be praising everything the decray Obama for. The hypocricy goes both ways.

Also Bob, your point about the red states mooching off of the blue states is the exact reason why state rights are so important. Personally, I don't want Conservative pshychos and Liberal douche bags dictating the way my state is run. It's much easier to affect public policy on a local level than trying to sway the whole nation. Protection of the individual should be the federal governments job, ie gay marriage.

James said...

@Anonymous: I know the hypocrisy goes both ways. I don't like the democrats or the republicans. I just get sick of seeing Bob and other liberals give Obama a free pass for doing things they would've criticized Bush for. He can still support Obama, I just want him to have the balls to call out the president when he's wrong. Otherwise, he's an intellectually dishonest sheep.

Anonymous said...

Bob, here's the problem.

Yes, I can live in Washington and telecommute to a job in Florida. I can jump on a plane and go from California to South Carolina in mere hours. But the simple truth is that not enough people do those things enough to say that "the world is smaller."

What you're not taking into account is culture. I currently live in Minnesota and once lived in Tennessee for a period while serving in the US Army. The cultures are completely different. And guess what? That is not, I repeat, NOT, going to change within ours lifetimes. How do you think a Red State would react to something such as gay marriage as opposed to a Blue State? As much as I love to see a Constitutional Amendment that said gays can marry in order to cram it down the throats of the American collective, IT WON'T TURN OUT WELL.

Until you have a Star Trek teleporter that makes travel from Atlanta to Seattle instantaneous and cheap enough so that the poorest of the poor can afford it, the cultural divide remains.

This is not inherently a bad thing. Bob, are you honestly telling us that you want a federal government with a track record of, say, No Child Left Behind, in charge of education? You would prefer having a shit program that covers everyone as opposed to letting States implement their own policy and, oh, I don't know, find out what works the best? Being a fellow geek and subsequently experiencing life through such a lens, I'm honestly amazed that you could possibly believe in such "one size fits all" nonsense.

You're telling me you'd rather let people in Washington DC decide what's best for people in Alabama? Or Boston? Or Minneapolis? Let me say it succinctly: fuck that noise. Do you recall that nonsense going around about two years ago concerning the rest of the US bailing out California because "they" couldn't pay their bills? If you don't, go Google "California bailout." How did that make you feel? Once again: fuck that noise.

Give me a break, Bob. Anyone who describes their political views as "libertine" would realize that people are different and that said people have the right to live their lives as they see fit, for better or for worse. The world is not smaller. Communication has not evolved far enough to make culture ubiquitous. Until you can do that, let people succeed and fail on their own, learn from it, and use that knowledge to better your own existence and the existence of those around you.

Now, your point concerning how Red States disproportionately affect national resources? This is an immense problem. However, I'd suggest you go watch you American Bob video entitled "Jobbed" around 4:48 to figure out why. How we solve that issue is beyond me.

Blue Highwind said...

I'm going to disagree strongly on this one too, Moviebob. You're talking about removing all state autonomy, but what exactly does that mean? Does that mean the entire institution of the states gets removed? Or merely they lose a great deal of their legislating power?

What a lot of Americans don't realize thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and idiotic news networks (all three of them of idiotic), that most of the administration that matters to your life is in the local sphere. Who is plowing your roads? Who is paving your high ways, or running the schools, or getting water to you? Its all the states and municipal governments. Even the speed limits aren't even decided by the national government.

Who decides if you can use fireworks? The states. Who decides if you can smoke in a restaurant? The states. Who decides the definition of marriage? States. And by the way, if it weren't for those state divisions, NO GAY COUPLES would be married anywhere in America. Because the federal Defense of Marriage Act would void every one of those unions. Yeah, the conservative states might do things you hate, but the liberal states might do things you like, like that Massachusetts health care bill that was the foundations for Obamacare.

You're also ignoring the fact that even though many Americans can just pack up and move to another state, that isn't the case for a lot of people. The poorest of the poor are stuck in their geographic area, they're not moving. And those people just struggling to get by in the recession probably can't afford to pack up and leave everything behind. We live in a globalized world, but that doesn't mean One Size Fits All for America. Remember, this is the third largest country on Earth, its not exactly geographically, culturally, or even religiously uniform.

We have differences in this country, that's something we're just going to need to accept. Instead of trying to turn the entire nation Red or Blue, we should be learning to work together, to compromise, and move forward. The states are going to move in different political directions. Its that very ability to experiment with different types of economies, political structures, and societies that has allowed this nation to find the best possible path into the future. You would destroy all those possibilities to make a single monster bureaucracy working under an ineffectual congress that would decide everything in our lives.

Personally, I'd rather have three competing levels of government over my head than one without limits.

biomechanical923 said...
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biomechanical923 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
biomechanical923 said...

"This is not inherently a bad thing. Bob, are you honestly telling us that you want a federal government with a track record of, say, No Child Left Behind, in charge of education? You would prefer having a shit program that covers everyone as opposed to letting States implement their own policy and, oh, I don't know, find out what works the best? Being a fellow geek and subsequently experiencing life through such a lens, I'm honestly amazed that you could possibly believe in such "one size fits all" nonsense.
You're telling me you'd rather let people in Washington DC decide what's best for people in Alabama? Or Boston? Or Minneapolis? Let me say it succinctly: fuck that noise. Do you recall that nonsense going around about two years ago concerning the rest of the US bailing out California because "they" couldn't pay their bills? If you don't, go Google "California bailout." How did that make you feel? Once again: fuck that noise

Do you recall when the federal government abolished racial segregation? A couple states refused to uphold the decision in favor of their "rights", and the president needed to send in the National Guard to enforce the change and send the message "This is happening. Deal with it."
The federal government does have the power to intervene when a state is shitting all over the rights of it's citizens.

Bob is right that a lot of people use "state's rights" as a sheep's clothing argument for the right to enforce bigotry or religion. They go on to say "But Washington doesn't represent us!" as if somehow a state government is any better at representing all of its citizens.
The rights of the minority should not be subject to a popular vote of the majority.

[edited to fix formatting]

Thomas said...

Eh, I guess my grudging support for States' Rights is a pessimism thing.

Yes, States' Rights as euphemism for racism is obvious.

But, it's also how liberty can hold out against the majority.

Okay, I am an unapologetic, 2nd amendment gun nut. ((I am also an unapologetic, 1st amendment printing press-to internets nut.) I like the fact that many of the states in the USA agree with me.)

I figure Bob doesn't agree with me.

Bob is proud of his coast-to-coast blue states, and he isn't wrong. The coastal states host our best universities and therefore our most influential intellectuals.

But. (!)

I just imagine a USA where the red states achieve superiority over the blue states. $SOCIALCONSERVATIVE laws are passed, liberty is ruined. Guns are free, but speech is not. Except.

Except the blue states have some autonomy, can respect the Bill of Rights even if the federal government does not.

Again, pessimism. I think that 50 democracies can avoid tyranny better than one. Not sure, just hoping.

mindjazz said...

I'm personally in favor of the rest of the country turning into Detroit.Give the states there rights. I want MY DAMN ROBOCOP.

Anonymous said...

Or to put it VERY VERY simply: I was under the impression that you guys lived in a country called the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Was I wrong?

T4_was_here said...

Let them do it and fail I say, then they will hopefully learn.

Anonymous said...

Standardized education as it exists right now is pretty terrible. Individual children have widely different needs that can't all be satisfied with a single cut-and-dry system, which is why if I ever have children I intend to homeschool them.

Counter-majoritarian said...

I find it interesting that @Anonymous above mentioned that they lived in Colorado, before saying "Standardized education as it exists right now is pretty terrible". Assuming that is the same author, they inadvertently make Moviebob's point: Yes, standardized education in Colorado is HORRIBLE, and no, you shouldn't send your kid there, you should send them to school in a better state.

I learned 2 things from CO public education: 1. Always carry a switchblade, because the 5 football-playing guys trying to kill your 90 lb female self sure do, 2, where to buy drugs to forget what happens to people who didn’t do #1.

But its like that there precisely BECAUSE of the state; because the state concentrates one cultural viewpoint into a small area tightly enough to make Jung jump for joy, because the state is too weak to collect taxes to have a cop at school, pay for textbooks or new chairs pr to sweep the park across the street for dealers. Its because the state government is STILL paying off millions of dollars in damages from a court case in which Colorado Springs lost 2 consecutive equal opportunity lawsuits for refusing to allow a gay-straight alliance to meet on school grounds, and when told they couldn't cancel a single club as an act of discrimination, they cancelled EVERY club in the school district and paid to have the Westboro Baptist idiots bussed in to call us all fa@%. (and before anyone starts, don't tell me I don't know what happened, my name is in those documents, I was there, I KNOW what happened).

States rights allow individual states to do this; drag the entire country back into the dark ages while they waste taxpayer money relitigating the same issue over and over when the country already moved on; a few years before the clubs, the Supreme Court had to waste its time telling Colorado they aren't allowed to pass laws permitting sexual orientation-based job discrimination. That's a fun issue from the 80s guys, thanks for spending my tax dollars on that instead of fixing the pothole that ripped my car's axle out or reducing the cop/firefighter shortage.

Another fun fact about Colorado? The state constitution (currently being sued as unconstitutionally obliterating representative government; its totally is, and its incredibly funny that someone just noticed that now) built a ratchet down tax structure where state income has to be lower by a set amount annually, until there is literally $0 in income. It WAS going to be a problem in 2075, but between the recession and the fact that a huge chunk of the state's income now comes from taxing all the medical marijuana that will be illegal again the second Obama loses, now we will apparently have no state government in 2025 at the latest. Whatever criticism you level at the fed, and there are lots, at least they never tried to stab themselves, and every citizen who needed a cop or an ambulance, in the back quite that thoroughly.

Also, in re the snow days: CA has to have snow days when it snows an inch because A: they don't have any snowplows in their state budget. B: their highways have these reflective tabs that help you see in the rain, but catch on snowplow scoops and rip the road up if you use them. and C: their driving courses include no lessons on how to handle sustained ice, much less recommendations on purchasing snow tires, so when it snows, the roads don't get cleared and inexperienced people crash. That's less of a problem in CO because all that stuff is required. All the fed would have to do is make COs rules standard, and you would waste a hell of a lot less money in CA handling car crashes and sitting at home watching tv because there was a snowflake and the entire state economy panicked).

I'm not saying purely federal government doesn't have issues, I'm just saying its "the worst form of government, except for all those others", to borrow from Churchill.

counter-majoritarian said...

I apologize, I just conflated @lazerkid and @anonymous into one comment in error. Point's still valid though.