Time For States to Cut the Cord With Washington

When our Founding Fathers established the framework for this country they were careful to limit the powers of the federal government. As James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers, the primary and central job of the federal government is to “provide for the common defense.”

As the nation matured the role of the federal government vastly expanded to include intrusion into almost every aspect of a citizen’s life. Call me a Libertarian for being annoyed with this.

Uncle Sam’s ubiquitous influence in our daily lives is about change. President Trump’s campaign declarations, followed by his cabinet picks clearly indicate the sheer number of government rules and regulations will be reduced.

Libertarians Want Less Government Intrusion

This news, as you’ve likely noticed, has been met with a collective howl and hand-wringing about “billionaire cabinet secretaries” undoing decades of federal safeguards. But let’s take a minute to think about it a different way.

What if this new breed of economically savvy appointees brings fresh eyes to the bloated bureaucracy, actually finds ways to release the federal government’s stranglehold and allows states to decide what’s best for their own citizens?

Take the example of what the new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, said recently about the Department of Justice’s past practice of monitoring local police departments after citizens’ complaints and excessive numbers of officer involved shootings.

“We need, so far as we can, in my view, to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness.” Mr. Sessions said in a speech to the National Association of Attorneys General. “And I’m afraid we’ve done some of that. So, we’re going to try to pull back on this, and I don’t think it’s wrong or mean or insensitive to civil rights or human rights.”

Talk to any police group that has been subjected to federal monitoring and they’ll tell you the minute the DOJ investigators arrive their department’s morale plummets. Officers pull back on efforts to keep neighborhood peace for fear they will be become targets. They shun overtime and stay away from their usual extracurricular community activities. How does any of that help enhance public safety? This administration apparently believes there is a better way to keep rogue officers and departments in check than sending in Big Brother types from Washington to monitor their activities.

I can’t wait to learn, for example, what their plan is for Chicago. During the closing days of the Obama term the DOJ released a massive and scathing report about what it called long standing “systemic deficiencies” and civil rights abuses at the Chicago PD. There was a plan for federal monitoring to be put in place to guide the department in the way Washington saw fit.

Well, AG Sessions has let it be known he wasn’t impressed with the DOJ’S Chicago report so what happens next in that murder-plagued city? Mayor Rahm Emmanuel better get busy figuring out some creative solutions for his city.

Yes, this Department of Justice is obviously marching to a different drum than the last one. I’m not convinced it is all bad.

AG Sessions, seemingly taking a cue from James Madison, sees his mandate as a protector of the nation as a whole. He’s promised to focus on attacking the vast drug routes that crisscross the United States, helping to stop the flow of illegal immigration into the country and addressing the rising murder rate seen in several major U.S. cities.

Obviously, Sessions and President Trump agree that the federal government should step aside and let states sort out their unique civil rights issues – transgender bathroom laws in Virginia, for example, or a voter ID case in Texas.

The very term “state’s rights” has the hand-wringers squawking about a return to the days of crippling discrimination. With no federal involvement, their thinking goes, the United States will dissolve back to an era of rampant racism, sexism and intolerance. Really? Just because the feds now plan to concentrate on the bigger picture and let states tackle their own problem all the progress we’ve seen so far dissolves?  I don’t buy that. That kind of thinking overlooks society’s positive shift in racial, sexual and political attitudes and the vast complex of laws (both civil and criminal) and other remedies we’ve put in place.

From the inception of this nation – going way back to the Articles of Confederation — there has been language setting forth state’s “freedom, sovereignty and independence” from the federal government. Somewhere along the line states began to turn to Washington for help in solving their problems. I’m thinking it’s time to reverse that trend and demand more of our local elected officials.

Who’s better to tackle your community’s problems? Some nameless, faceless bureaucrat from Washington or someone you can demand be removed from office if they don’t do the job?





  1. Diane Dimond on March 6, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Ben Laime writes:

    Just a short note to say KUDOS for your excellent piece in the 4 March op-ed page. Most politicos in Washington fail to read the Constitution , especially the 10th Amendment , which says just what your talked about. Oh well life goes on and tragically the folks who view themselves as the solution to all challenges will continue to ignore this .
    Cheers and keep up the great work. Dr. Ben Laime in Albuquerque.

    ps. I used to tell my students in Constitution Law that the 10th needs to be shouted from the proverbial roof-tops(and I’m a Harry S Truman Democrat(and fan of this great man).

  2. Diane Dimond on March 6, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    Reader Denise Robles writes:

    Really don’t get your logic. Wonder how relying on local government would have dealt with the problems of slavery, or desegregation, or indentured servitude. How about factory towns, where workers were paid just enough to keep them from leaving.
    I know our local, elected officials are often corrupt in New Mexico. Remember Manny Aragon, he didn’t act alone Nothing much was done about him for years. I agree in principle we should demand more of our local officials (I couldn’t even get my city rep. to respond to an email) if possible, but I also think you are elevating. an iron age document, admittedly an amazing, prescient one, to near biblical stature. Its 2017.


  3. Diane Dimond on March 6, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Margaret Phillips writes:

    Dear Ms. Dimond;
    My husband and I read your column in the Albuquerque Journal religiously. I also clip it out and forward it to my daughter (retired Navy) in Portsmouth RI.
    I found today’s column “Time for states to cut the cord with Washington” very insightful and we are in complete agreement with your points, which are well made and thoughtful.
    We are behind President Trump and his efforts to right this country. We do not for one minute believe he is in this to enrich himself or his cronies.
    I realize he is a rather lewd, crude individual but I see the rock that God can polish into a diamond. If Franklin Graham saw the good in this man, who am I to question THAT?

    I AM concerned about the “barbarians at the gate’ that are more focused on taking Mr. Trump and his administration down than in putting their collective energy into solving the many problems our country is beset with. Each day is uglier than the last and I am becoming somewhat fearful at what we are seeing unfolding before our eyes. Transparency is one thing but sabotage is another.

    Thank you again. God bless you Ms. Dimond. Please continue your good work.
    God bless and keep our President and God bless the United States of America.

    Margaret Phillips
    Edgewood NM

  4. Diane Dimond on March 6, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Noozhawk Reader MaxWebXperienZ writes:

    Historically the best governments are run by men and women with real world experience. We just got rid of a lot of ideologues and replaced them with Billionaires. Billionaires have real world experience. I’m looking forward to a far better America than anything in my lifetime. They understand the overreach of the Federal Sector and are fully empowered to shut it all down. I hope they do exactly that.

  5. Diane Dimond on March 6, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Noozhawk Reader Monterey Jack writes:

    Maybe we’ll have Confederate currency with Trump’s face on it?

  6. Diane Dimond on March 6, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    Facebook Friend Kimbyrly Valis writes:

    Excellent article, Diane. My sentiments exactly (and Dad would have loved it…). 🙂

  7. Diane Dimond on March 6, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Facebook Friend Nancy Spieker Robel writes:

    I couldn’t agree more with your perspective. I hope the new administration can push this reduction of federal intrusion through. And they may just reduce our National Debt in the process. Keep my country safe and reduce my taxes and I will be a blissful American.

    • Diane Dimond on March 6, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      Kimbyrly Valis replies:

      I second that!

  8. Diane Dimond on March 6, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    Twitter Pal cphily4u@cphily4u writes:

    @DiDimond Great point but the Dems want their free homes,health care,food stamps,free phones,child care,gas,electric,cable tv,Internet etc.. // Dems need federal government 2 live free.

  9. Diane Dimond on March 6, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    Twitter pal bob_burtisBob Burtis@bob_burtis

    @DiDimond Diane Great perspective. The Feds have been on a land grab for decades. No problem to small for them to advance their agenda.//Agreed Political Dueling Banjos = Dueling Investigations to avoid doing their job.

  10. Diane Dimond on March 6, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    Twitter Pal econnors22 Ed Connors writes:

    @DiDimond Some argue that repealing the 17th Amendment would be a good start to this idea.

    note: 17th amendment insures each state gets TWO U.S. senators

  11. Diane Dimond on March 6, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    Twitter Pal BillsaratogaBill@Billsaratoga writes:

    @DiDimond anything almost 250 years old out to re examined every once in a while. Issues are different now than then…

  12. Diane Dimond on March 7, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    Reader Ed Birnbaum writes:

    Ms. Dimond,

    I read your op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal last week about shifting things from the control of the Federal government to state governments.

    While I understand the appeal of bringing the government closer to the people, unfortunately that is no guarantee that state government politicians and bureaucrats will listen to the people any better than the Feds do.

    Things have generally moved from state to Federal hands mostly because states did such a lousy job in the past. Had we relied on states to act, blacks and whites would still be using separate bathrooms in the South, and blacks would still have to ride in the back of the bus. Unfortunately, a majority of the people in a state can often ignore the rights and desires of the minorities in that state. It is harder to do that at the Federal level, since a minority in one state may be a majority in another state.

    Contrary to your statement that things will not move backward if we were to make this shift, is the undeniable fact that when the Voting Rights Act was repealed, most of the Southern states did their best to quickly disenfranchise black and poor voters. The only check on that behavior now are the Federal courts, and who knows how long that barrier will exist under the new Attorney General.

    Another big problem for states is corruption, something with which New Mexico and most other states, struggle. Although corruption is not limited to state and local government, it is much easier for businesses, corporations and folks with lots of money to corrupt politicians at the state level than it is for the same thing to happen at the Federal level. There are a lot more eyes watching at the Federal level, including heavy duty media coverage. There is a good reason why we have the FBI and the Justice Department, although their performance seems to be sadly lacking these days. Do you really think that the states on their own can handle the drug cartels?

    I have spent most of my life in New York City and in New Mexico. Both states suffer greatly from corruption at the state and local levels. The corruption in the New York state house is legendary, as was the corruption of the big bosses of Tammany Hall. The NY/NJ Port Authority is another great example of how difficult it is to prevent corruption at the state and local levels when big building projects are up for grabs. I’m sure you can come up with lots of similar examples in New Mexico.

    So please present both sides of the coin, i.e., both the pluses AND the minuses of moving from the Federal government to state and local governments.

    Ed Birnbaum
    Los Alamos