How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

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Republicans are hypocrites on states' rights

I can't tell you how many times over the years and on how many different issues Republicans in Congress have justified their failure to act by contending that a particular an action was not within their purview, but instead fell within the jurisdiction of state or local government according to the United States Constitution.

Republicans have consistently asserted that individual states and local municipalities should control domestic policy. They have argued that different states have different histories and cultures and for that reason imposing national policies in various areas is inappropriate. They often argue that since states came together to form the United States, most powers belong to them. Advocates of states' rights generally support their position by referring to political powers reserved to the states under the Tenth Amendment: "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated." Suffice to say that this clause is broad and open to multiple interpretations.

Over the years Republicans have thwarted national efforts to deal with a plethora of issues by claiming the mantle of states' rights. However, when a state takes a position they disagree with they are quick to abandon any pretense of being pro-states' rights. Witness Republican opposition to states taking strong positions on same-sex marriage, abortion, immigration, medical/recreational use of marijuana and the regulation of guns, polluting industries, the banking industry and land-use issues.

This become abundantly clear when you consider the underpinnings of the so-called "Tax Reform" bill that set a cap on the SALT (state and local tax) as an itemized deduction for federal income taxes. This action is clearly designed to punish blue states that have relied heavily on property taxes to fund costly services including K-12 education, public safety, health and human care services, e.g., Obamacare. In order to provide corporate tax cuts for America's most profitable companies and our highest wage earners, Republicans have opted to hike the federal taxes of residents of select blue states that rely heavily on property taxes to support government services.

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, got it right when she wrote, "The GOP plan pays for corporate tax cuts by eviscerating the deduction for state and local taxes, which pay for public education, public colleges, public safety and infrastructure. Millions of people will pay more taxes and as a result, that will make it harder for states and communities to raise money for these public investments."

What happened to the argument that states have the right to do what they feel is best for their residents? All of a sudden it's okay to do what you feel is best for your state's residents, but if you do it, we will double-tax you for exercising your taxing powers and further exaggerating the existing imbalance in the amount of taxes paid by residents of New Jersey against the amount we receive back in federal funds.

Even some conservative thinkers like columnist Edwin Yoder see the hypocrisy of reducing the SALT deduction. "The principled point is the need to guard the vitality of state and local government, not to impair it by hogging still more traditional local tax sources for the federal Treasury."

Federalists recognize that the deduction is a form of revenue sharing between the federal government and state and local governments. With the elimination of the deduction, taxpayers in blue states will be far less likely to support current state and local tax levels. As result, state and localities in blue states will struggle to raise adequate revenue in the future to provide governmental services that were provided in the past.

If the Republican capping of the SALT deduction isn't hypocritical enough for you, here's another recent example of Republicans playing fast and loose with states' rights: Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recently rescinded an Obama administration policy that has allowed legalized marijuana to flourish nationwide. Under the Obama policy, 29 states allowed the medical use of cannabis, 8 states made the non-medical use of cannabis legal (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) and 14 states decriminalized the use of cannabis.

Sessions, who believes that marijuana is at the root of many of society's ills, has rescinded the Cole Memorandum, which since August of 2013 has enabled the Department of Justice to pursue a relatively passive policy regarding enforcement of the federal cannabis laws. His new guidelines give prosecutors more flexibility in enforcing federal laws against states where marijuana is legal. According to Senator Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, this policy is contrary to what he was told was the Trump administration's official policy on marijuana trade in states. It is clearly contrary to the position Donald Trump took during his campaign where he was quoted in The Washington Post as saying, "In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state."

Republicans love states' rights and want states to have more power with less government interference only when it suits their political interests. Republican are total hypocrites when it comes to the issue of states' rights.