The sunshine federalism of Lori Swanson

posted at 9:30 am on April 7, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, we found out that Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson had declared that she would not only refuse to sue to stop the federal mandate in ObamaCare, she would also file amicus briefs arguing on behalf of federal jurisdiction in health care and insurance.  While Governor Tim Pawlenty plans his next move to counter Swanson, he may want to read a broadside Swanson launched against the Bush administration over federalism and insurance in August 2008.  Swanson blasted the Bush administration for its approach, sounding quite Madisonian in her staunch defense of state sovereignty and the wisdom of decentralization:

The administration also wants to allow insurance companies to be regulated exclusively by the federal government. This not only would undermine the ability of states to protect policyholders from unfair insurance practices, it probably would raise insurance rates in states like Minnesota. Midwestern states often have lower property- and casualty-insurance rates because they don’t have the same hazards — hurricanes, outdated building code enforcement, urban fires, etc. — that result in higher rates on the two coasts and in the South. A federal insurance-rate regulation system would likely gloss over geographical differences, causing Minnesota’s insurance premiums to go up.

State government has shown that it can be more responsive to the needs of the ordinary citizen. For example, in 2006, while the states were pursuing Ameriquest Mortgage for $325 million over its predatory lending practices, the White House was busy appointing the company’s CEO to be ambassador to the Netherlands.

When he first ran for the presidency, George W. Bush said he favored “state’s rights” and a smaller federal government. But now his administration wants to expand the federal government at the expense of the “state’s right” to protect citizens. What caused the change in policy? Could it be that, when it comes to consumer protection, the administration knows who has the real power in Washington?

Wow!  Swanson sounds like quite the federalist … when a Republican is in the White House.  Two years ago, Swanson staunchly defended Minnesota against a federal incursion on state jurisdiction in the insurance industry.  She noted — correctly — that different states have different issues, and that a one-size-fits-all approach would benefit some states at the expense of others, with some Midwestern states in the latter category.

So what happened?  The same argument applies to ObamaCare, after all, and not just on a state level but also on an individual level.  The federal government wants to impose an unprecedented one-size-fits-all approach onto every citizen and force them to buy insurance many of them don’t need.  Minnesota’s insurance premiums will definitely rise, as we have seen when the same approach was taken in Maine and Massachusetts.  As Swanson wrote less than two years ago, state government is more responsive to the citizenry, and in this case the citizenry can decide for themselves, too.

The only changes between August 2008 and now is that ObamaCare is a much bigger arrogation of power by the federal government than the program Swanson publicly challenged at that time … and a Democrat is in the White House now.  Swanson appears to be interested in defending the prerogatives of Minnesota only when she can rip Republicans, and interested in helping dismantle state prerogatives and individual rights when Democrats propose it.  It’s the very definition of political hack. (via HA reader Sue)


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