Justin Owen

Editor's Note: This piece was co-authored by Tarren Bragdon.

There’s no doubt the American economy is in a world of hurt. Until last month, we had failed to drop below an eight percent unemployment rate since February 2009, we have a record $16 trillion (and growing) national debt, and we have an incontinent federal government that is making matters worse by the hour.

So how do we get out of this mess? While elections matter, even they have failed to deliver freedom and prosperity. President Obama was re-elected handily despite his abysmal track record. More than half of America has doubled down on failure.

The real path to prosperity lies in Tennessee. And Oklahoma, and Florida, and every other sovereign state in the nation.

State-led policies to rejuvenate our economy exist aplenty. And even better than a top down, one-size-fits-all Washington approach, the states can serve as “laboratories of democracy” and tailor policies toward their respective geographic, demographic, and economic composition.

What works in one southern state with an agrarian economy will look quite different than what is best for a Rust Belt industrial state, or a northeastern financial state. Further, states can offer a test run of ideas, and others can emulate what works and avoid what doesn’t. If a policy fails, it can be dumped on the ash heap of history rather than become entrenched in our national fabric, a la the various entitlement programs that are advancing toward bankruptcy at the speed of light and destined to swallow up state budgets en route.

State leaders have a unique ability and growing desire to wrestle control back from Washington on a range of issues. The recent Supreme Court ruling on President Obama’s signature healthcare law, while bad overall, provides one such example. The ruling puts states firmly in the driver’s seat over whether to expand a Medicaid system that we can already ill afford.

Several governors have dug in their heels to protect their taxpayers as well as the millions of potential enrollees who will inevitably be purged from the program when reality beckons the unsustainable model. Look no further than Tennessee just seven years ago, when former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen was forced to remove more than 170,000 adults from a budget-busting TennCare Medicaid program. Even that was not enough, and by the end of his second term, Bredesen had removed 350,000 people from the program. Many of these patients had become so dependent on the system that they were blindsided and left in worse shape than when they were enrolled.

Justin Owen

Justin Owen is the president and chief executive officer of the Beacon Center of Tennessee, an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan research organization dedicated to providing concerned citizens, the media, and public leaders with expert empirical research and timely free market policy solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee. He has helped usher in comprehensive tort reform, assisted in the repeal of collective bargaining by teachers’ unions, and worked to end Tennessee’s death tax.