CA vs. USA

There were always a few planks in the Republican platform that were nailed down. One was states’ rights. Upholding a state’s jurisdiction over the reach of the federal government is a classic conservative position. Old-school Republicans railed against the meddling of big government and ran for office on it. But in recent years, there’s been some splintering in the wood.

The conservative approach to states’ rights has been turned topsy-turvy by the Bush administration when it comes to the feds’ interference into environmental protections initiated by states, especially this state. Whether by land, sea or air, the Bush administration has struck back against California, which has some of the most stringent regulations in the country, if not the world.

One merely has to try to breathe in the midsummer air in the car-crazed Central Valley to understand why the state is leading the fight to control air pollution. But rather than respecting states’ rights to regulate, the Bush administration is asserting its power to un-regulate, claiming it is in the interest of all (big business?) to allow a laissez-faire approach. For the particulars on the court battles that have ensued, read Chrisanne Beckner’s cover story (“Don’t tread on us”).

And while most of us are focused on breathing this summer, perhaps seeing also should be a concern if we run into major power outages, like we had in 2000. While focused on retribution against Enron, perhaps we also should take a look at systemic problems regarding where the power to light California is coming from, or at least that’s how columnist Jill Stewart sees it (see “Power failure”).

With Republicans going back to their old standby plank of “let the free market work” over government intervention, we’ll see if leaving power companies alone will provide plenty of light—and we can breathe at the same time.