President Obama Gets It On Progressive Federalism
May 20, 2009, 5:06 pm
Filed under: Ian | Tags: ,

It is impossible to understate how awesome this is:

In a bold and sweeping policy memorandum issued today, President Obama reaffirmed the critical role that state and local governments play in our constitutional system.  The President’s memorandum directs executive branch officials to review every regulation adopted in the past ten years to scrub them of inappropriate preemption language.

In an assault on federalism and our Constitution, the Bush Administration quietly inserted preemptive language into a number of important regulations in an attempt to favor corporate interests at the expense of state laws protecting their citizens.  Today the Obama Administration recognized that states serve as “laboratories of democracy” and often are the most aggressive defenders of public health, safety, and the environment.

Today’s action follows yesterday’s decision to adopt California’s automobile emissions standards at the national level—a perfect example of how our country benefits when states act as policy innovators.  The states led, the nation followed, and the broad coalition of industry leaders, state officials, and environmental advocates assembled at the White House yesterday showed our country at its best.

UPDATE: Ok, I should probably explain why this is so cool.

The Bush Administration not only stripped away federal regulations protecting ordinary Americans, they used their power under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution to prohibit states from enforcing their own laws that protect consumers, workers, the underprivileged and the elderly.  In truth, however, this is a project that began in the Clinton Administration; driven partially by Democrats who were still stuck in a 1960s way of thinking that says that universal federal standards are always superior to the big, bad states.  President Obama’s policy memorandum shows that he understands that the federal government cannot be an obstacle to states who want to protect their citizens in a manner that goes above-and-beyond bare federal standards.  For constitutional geeks like me, this is an historic moment.

Just as importantly, it shows that President Obama will not make the same mistakes President Clinton made in appointing judges and justices who eagerly sign on to the corporate “tort reform” agenda.  Justice Breyer, in particular, has voted to strip states of their authority to regulate automobile safety, he has declared medical device manufacuters to be immune from accountability when their defective products injure or kill a patient, and he was the weakest of the six justice who recently held that drug companies do not enjoy similar immunity.  In Justice Breyer’s America, George W. Bush would have had the power to grant such immunity if he only jumped through a couple of hoops.

After this news, I’m really excited to see who the next justice is going to be.


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