While living in Texas for two decades I saw lots of dead armadillos. They learned, too late, that the middle of the road is not the safest place. Maybe politics has become that way, as we head to the purported fiscal cliff. Democrats want to spend more, Republicans want to tax less, and both in recent years have had their way. The result: trillion-dollar deficits.
State governments, though, are the laboratories of democracy, and we have an opportunity in 2013 to see whether experiments blow us up or lead to something better. For example, in Michigan, a Republican legislature and governor have freed individual workers from the need to join unions and pay for the campaigns of politicians whose views they may abhor. We’ll see whether companies build new plants in a state hungry for jobs.
In California, we’re about to see what happens when Democrats control both branches of the state legislature along with the governorship. As The New York Times reported, this is the end of “years of pent-up Democratic desires—to roll back spending cuts, approve a bond issue to rebuild the state’s water system, amend the state’s tax code, revamp California’s governance system—that had been largely checked by the Republican minority.”
States are the laboratories of democracy within the American system, and more states are swerving either right or left. Only three have legislatures with one branch controlled by Republicans and the other by Democrats. States with a legislature run by one party and an executive branch run by the other are also rare. NPR this week ran a story worrying that states are going in different directions, but it seems to me that decentralization will give us clear signals about what works and what doesn’t.
New Year’s resolution: Compare developments in Michigan and California, and be thankful that states cannot print their own money.