In a surprising but well-doctored media conference on Monday, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty with Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle announced a plan to merge some state services into a joint body in order to trim government waste. Their estimates show that such action could save both states a few million dollars. But with Minnesota's budget deficit at the tens of billions of dollars range, the plan appears rather narrow in scope to deal with the mass of enormous debt.
Could the idea be part of a greater scheme?
It is not a new idea but one that certainly gives the citizen the impression that state sovereignty does not necessarily matter. In a system becoming all the more geared to what Washington dictates for the nation, Pawlenty's proposal gleefully cheers for the further disintegration of local decision making. Its disdain for state autonomy and indifference to the safeguards of a federalist system are perplexing in that they come from the top government official in Minnesota.
All too often special interests that steer public policy crave power centers. And if they can influence all parts of the nation by one branch or house, their dream is realized.
This development is at the heart of the death of federalism. Federalism, a system outlayed in the U.S. Constitution, seperates powers so that individual states can make local decisions and wield proper control over programs that affect them. However, the federal government in D.C., is meant only to aid states in upholding the Constitution. A state, in many respects, has autonomy. The Declaration of Independence even calls it a duty for a state to secede in the event of its impeding the rights of people. Jefferson wrote,
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
But the government in St. Paul does not revolve around Minnesota. No, it rather beams toward Washington with a galiant bow in service. And Pawlenty's ambitions for the presidency are notorious. His "service" as the state's governor is for him only a stepping stone to greater halls.
States used to violently defend any who dared disrupt their sovereignty. Now, they rather like the idea of giving it up altogether.