State’s Rights Leads to Regional Inequality

I’ve grown tired of state’s rights arguments, even if no one else agrees. For most people, the vague catch-all of “states rights” solves most problems outright. Liberals can trailblaze new environmental regulations, marijuana legalization, or gun restrictions whether The White House is occupied by Barack Obama or Donald Trump. And for their part, Republicans are happy to use “states rights” arguments to deny basic LGBT rights, shut down abortion clinics, or pass their own ultra-rightwing immigration laws.

It’s an environment where everybody wins right? Wrong, because we’d be forgetting that most red state legislatures and governors are elected during mid-term elections where sometimes less than a quarter of eligible voters actually cast a ballot, and in a state like Alabama said state legislature works a mere thirty days out of the year.

You don’t think about part-time, month-long Summer employees having the ability to dictate everything from the purity of the water you drink to whether you’re forced to travel out of state to have an abortion. Do you really want people that most voters have never heard of, never voted for, and in some cases are not even able to vote for (either through gerrymandering, Voter ID laws, or the silent fact that many incumbents run unopposed for state legislature) having that level of power?

Especially given that many red states are already lagging behind in education, wealth, access to healthcare, crime prevention, family planning, pollution, public transit, infrastructure, and even life expectancy. What happens when a state like Mississippi—which already has the highest teen pregnancy, out of wedlock pregnancy, and single-mother rates in America—decides to shut down most or all of its abortion clinics through various legal maneuvers? [“We don’t want to outlaw abortion, we just want the mother to have to walk 100 miles barefoot to get one, and also bring a fantasy scrapbook of the life that child would’ve had if she hadn’t been selfish, along with signing an ‘I’m a sociopath’ declaration at the mock funeral for that fetus.”]

It plunges them even further into a wealth divide with blue-state women who have greater access to birth control, and can plan to have kids when they can afford it. You’re talking about something close to genetic poverty that is inherited largely based on which state you live in.

You may argue that it’s been this way since the Southeast went rogue, called themselves the Confederacy, and plunged the region into a losing battle that guaranteed a century of poverty, but why should it still be this way? What other major nation on Earth would allow different sets of laws for each state on nearly every issue?

Why should someone who lives in Arkansas not even be able to legally buy medical marijuana (proven to decrease illegal opiod use or legal painkiller abuse) while a few states over someone in Colorado can buy Tahitian Vanilla Kush crossed with strains of fair-trade Congo Mountain buds? Why should a pregnant teen in Mississippi have to undergo a “destination abortion” to a clinic hundreds of miles away? And, most importantly, there’s the GOP’s one-party war on public education and common-core educational standards.

If kids in Minnesota can expect a notably better education than kids in Alabama, that ripples out into generations of worse economic opportunities. What top employer wants to come to a state that doesn’t have a workforce with the degrees, skills, or knowledge to fill their jobs–tax cuts be damned? The same Reaganomics tax-cuts state Republicans swear will attract businesses usually comes at the expense of public schools and infrastructure that those same businesses would want to use to hire great workers.

Not to mention, it’s a lot harder to attract top talent to a state where the workers don’t like the school systems, retail development, or don’t feel socially welcome. Just ask North Carolina’s Pat McCrory who experienced a severe business backlash to signing anti-LGBT bills. Comparatively, Minnesota has far more Fortune 500 companies based there like Best Buy or Target, and those corporations won’t fund politicians even thinking about denying gay rights, and by extraction a significant part of their workforce.

In lesser-developed nations, they typically experience something called “Brain Drain” where a lot of their most educated residents move to Europe or the United States, knowing it’ll be easier to start that billion-dollar tech startup in nations that have high speed internet vs. only four hours a day for consistent electricity.

On a smaller-scale, red states are experiencing something similar. What top fashion company would want to build in Alabama knowing they’d be unlikely to persuade top designers to move there? What top tech company would want to build in Mississippi, the least educated state in the nation? And North Carolina film production is already down since the anti-LGBT laws took effect. Hollywood said “sure, you have state’s rights, and we have the right to go to a different state.”

This is putting the kids and economic future of those states at a huge disadvantage. To even give a purely Southern example, pretty much every state in America except Alabama sells lottery tickets. For the rest of the Southeast this has meant huge gains in education, including the “Hope Scholarships” providing free in-state college tuition for students who maintain an A or B average. [Did Bernie Sanders even know that the South is already doing this when he advocated the same thing?] What’s it meant for Alabama is that their students are on their own. After all, there’s a reason that as a kid when I told people what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was almost unanimously “Oh, well you’ll have to move out of Alabama to do it.”

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