State power hardly seems in its heyday. The federal government controls nearly a quarter of the country's GDP. Washington is on the brink of passing health care legislation that would reorder one-sixth of the U.S. economy and give bureaucrats vast new powers to regulate and micromanage American medicine. The EPA toys with regulating carbon emissions under the auspice of the Clean Air Act, which could lead to new regulations not only of energy-intensive industries, but also of schools, hospitals and restaurants.
Meanwhile, states are struggling to close historic budget gaps. Unlike the federal government, which can shoulder a trillion dollar deficit and always has the option of printing money, state government's have little choice but to cut services or raise taxes. State officials almost seem to be pleading with their constituents to accept this fiscal reality.
Yet state governments are taking important actions and helping to serve as a voice of the people in rejecting some of government's excesses.
Poll and after poll shows an American public aghast by proposed health care reforms. People have been attending tea party protests, swarming town hall meetings and voting against supporters of the Democrats' health care legislation every chance they get.
Some state governments are expressing popular sentiment in another way. Earlier this month, Virginia enacted legislation that rejects the federal takeover of the health care system. Idaho adopted similar legislation this week. The new laws are designed to protect the rights of individuals to not buy government approved insurance. Virginia and Idaho are not alone in this effort: An estimated 36 other states have similar bills in the works.
Federal law generally trumps state law, so—if Democrats manage to ram though currently proposed legislation—the state “nullification” efforts would likely just create a legal hiccup for those implementing the new federal law. But importantly the states' actions should remind elected officials in Washington just how much their constituents oppose this massive federal power grab.