During the National Conference of State Legislatures summit in Indianapolis, former Vice President Mike Pence announced his states’ rights-focused campaign platform but a prominent liberal Democrat in New Jersey challenged his proposal, which she called a ‘plan to kill Americans.’
“As a former governor, I know that states are not subsidiaries of Washington, D.C. States are not subordinate departments of the federal government,” Pence said. “Our 50 states are the very foundation of our Republic.”
“When states are free, America thrives,” said Pence but this was disputed by Lisa McCormick, the progressive New Jersey Democrat who challenged US Senator Bob Menendez in the 2018 Democratic primary election.
“States’ rights is an antiquated political philosophy that was intended to hinder the power of the United States government to vanquish slavery,” said McCormick, who explained that “Vesting the majority of political power in states instead of Washington, D.C. might have been workable in the 1800s but it is a silly notion in the 21st century.”
“The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution of the United States says federal laws take priority over any conflicting state laws,” said McCormick. “In 1819, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall asserted that the federal government is supreme, superseding state power whenever there was a conflict with laws adopted by state governments.”
“Mike Pence and a lot of other Republicans are apparently still fighting the Civil War, but the United States of America is not a coalition or confederation,” said McCormick. “This one nation is a powerful and united country that has not only banned slavery but moved past the horse and buggy era and conquered space. The notion that free Americans would let some states harness US citizens, or deny education and health care to them, simply boggles the imagination.”
Pence’s five-part plan would limit the federal government’s powers to allow the states to deny human rights to women, the poor, and other minority groups.
Pence’s plan starts with eliminating the federal Department of Education and leaving the necessary task of providing children a world-class education entirely to the states.
Pence has long been an advocate of “school choice,” or strategies that allow private companies to lure parents into enrolling their children in segregated schools using public funding at the expense of free public schools.
“Americans cannot allow some kids to fall behind in learning, or be cloistered from the realities of science and life by puritanical politicians, religious extremists, and greedy corporations,” said McCormick. “Diverting money to private businesses means giving up on public education and it is not patriotic of Mike Pence to suggest that we surrender on our children.”
Pence also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The plan would divert federal dollars currently spent on low-income healthcare services and on insurance subsidies toward the states.
“According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), 29.8 million Americans would lose their coverage if Obamacare is repealed, more than doubling the number of people without health insurance in the United States,” said McCormick. “The Urban Institute estimated that if the ACA were repealed, 134,100 people would die prematurely over a 10-year period because they would not receive preventive care and would delay or forgo necessary medical treatment.”
“Mike Pence’s plan to kill Americans may be popular among extremists but it is cruel, unwise, and unfair,” said McCormick.
Pence wants to divest the federal government of the 28% of U.S. land that it owns, according to a 2020 Congressional Research Service report. He said that “a portion of” the land should be returned to the states for “development” and “innovation.”
McCormick counters that 61 percent of federal land is in Alaska and 46 percent is concentrated in a group of 11 western states—California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington State, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah—with only 4.1% of land in the other 38 states.
“Giving away that property ignores the national need to provide for preservation, recreation, and development of natural resources,” said McCormick. “What Mike Pence wants to do is enrich predominantly Republican areas that would work in league with profit-seeking corporations to destroy America’s natural wonders, spoil pristine environmental preserves and exploit those resources for short-term commercial gain.”
“States should not be allowed to take over management of public lands because they would undermine environmental protection, harm recreation and tourism, disrupt tribal sovereignty, and shower benefits on wealthy special interests at the expense of the public good,” said McCormick.
Pence’s plan also calls on the states to take over all social safety net programs currently administered by the federal government, a scheme McCormick said would result in further widening the gap between the rich and everyone else, particularly in states that have deceptively named anti-union ‘right to work’ laws or still subject working Americans to a $7.25 per hour minimum wage.
The former vice president also wants to convert the federal highway trust fund, money intended for roads and bridges, to state control so that construction and repair projects can be done without environmental safeguards, fair contracting practices or anti-corruption oversight.
“Although Mike Pence lags far behind in polls among Republicans who are still enthralled by the specter of wannabe dictator Donald Trump, it is important that Americans recognize the reckless ideology that still drives the GOP even after more than 40 years of failure has completely discredited Reaganomics or trickle-down economics,” McCormick said. “Pence will never call the tune in Washington, but if any Republican adopts his ideas, working-class Americans will pay the bill.”