Old number 44 is an avid golfer when he is not knocking down three pointers, giving defining moment speeches or passing out money to the American people as if it is water. He recently quipped that the banks had to “have some skin in the game” if they wanted to get more economic stimulus money.
Mr. Obama’s skin is literally in the economic stimulus game and has given new impetus to the age old notion of States Rights embedded in the United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights. The Tenth Amendment reserves to the states all rights that are not delegated to the federal government. This amendment was a sticking point in the transformation from a confederation of states into a united government and the justification for the southern states walking away from this union before the nation was 100 years old.
In the 1960's, southern governors and congressmen, fought the federal notion that segregation should be outlawed in public accommodations, housing, education and the American way of life. These men of wealth and education argued they were not racist but proponents of the rights given to the states by the founding fathers in the 10 th Amendment.
Whenever the federal government advocated the liberal notion that all Americans should be treated equally and have an opportunity to enjoy the American dream these southern gentlemen skilled in sophistry turned to the language of interposition and nullification. They rejected and nullified federal legislation that eased the burden of the “Negro” and sought to confer upon them funds from the public treasury.
The States Righters were so pervasive in their quest to stop the progression of time until it caused Martin to cry out in his famous speech: “I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification...”
And time marches to the same drum beat. Today, nearly 41 years after Martin was murdered the southern governors and congressmen are in lock step opposing the president’s plan to provide unemployment benefits to part-time workers who are out of work due to a recessive economy. In their southernness, they argue the federal government does not have the right to require them to take care of their citizens.
The stimulus law requires states to consider recent wage information when determining unemployment eligibility. Also, the law makes workers eligible for benefits if they can prove “compelling family reasons” for quitting their jobs and extends benefits if a worker is in a job training program. The governors and lawmakers who oppose the economic bailout to unemployed Americans posit they have a right to determine who receives unemployment checks in their states. Albeit, checks written on funds received from the federal government.
As in 1860, the great state of South Carolina fired the first salvo becoming the first state to turn down stimulus money geared to pay unemployment benefits. Its governor, Mark Sanford, chairs the Republican Governors Association and has led Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), Haley Barbour (Mississippi), and Bob Riley (Alabama) in rejecting stimulus money.
Missing from this list of deep southern state governors to reject stimulus money is Florida governor, Charlie Crist ( R) who has endorsed the president’s plan to stimulate the economy and Mike Easley (D) North Carolina.
Then in another class, there is Texas Governor Rick Perry who has hinted he will reject the perceived federal intrusion in awarding state unemployment benefits and Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. The southern Republican governors seem content to allow Governors Perry and Perdue to fight the next leg of the States Rights argument, therefore, elimination of the 1965 Voting Rights Acts which requires states to get clearance from the Justice Department anytime there are changes to election laws.
Make no mistake about it, the removal of Justice Department oversight in southern states elections laws is tantamount to the removal of federal troops following the Tilden- Hayes presidential election. The removal of federal troops from the South ended Reconstruction and led to a wave of repression unsurpassed by anything other than slavery itself.
The Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments in the Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder in April. This case originated in Texas and seeks removal of the pre-clearance requirement. Georgia’s Governor Sonny Perdue last week filed a friend of the court brief arguing that Georgia is not the state that it was in 1965. Mr. Perdue’s brief was filed by a private attorney after Georgia’s Attorney General, Thurbert Baker, a native of South Carolina, refused to file a brief on behalf of the State of Georgia. Mr. Baker is a Democrat and the state’s first African American to win a non-judicial statewide office.
Perdue’s position is underscored by the fact last week Republican lawmakers in his state legislature refused to sign off on a resolution honoring President Obama. The resolution was offered by members of the Black Legislative Caucus in the House of Representative and would have commended Mr. Obama and made him an honorary member of the Black Caucus. Such measures are routinely granted by members of the legislature out of professional courtesy.
African American members of the legislature felt slighted and walked out of Friday’s session. Their departure over language in the resolution that commended Mr. Obama for being an honorable man brought back memories of 1868 when the first Africans to be made citizens in 1865 had been elected to the Georgia legislature and were refused their seats amid talk they were not qualified to be law makers.
Mr. Obama has “some skin in the game” and the skin ain’t green, its black.
(c) Copyright March 23, 2009