Perhaps the biggest political battle of today is about how much control the federal government should have, especially concerning education and health care.
Republicans, and especially the Southern states, are considered conservative. My interpretation of a conservative leader is one who believes the future is the result of our actions, avoids asking for handouts and prefers self-reliance, comes up with independent and innovate solutions and avoids spending more money than what is brought in.
Many conservatives naturally favor the concept of states' rights, and no more than in the South are they more relevant. The Southern states seceded from the Union to create their own nation, and to this day consistently elect candidates who, at least on the surface, support the view that the states individually should create and control their own education, social services and health care policies as if they are their own nation. They rely on the federal government only for a common defense, foreign policy and currency.
With a history of electing such candidates, one would think that the South would lead the nation in innovative state-based solutions. Georgia, for instance, has a population and economy comparable in size to that of Sweden, an independent nation.
Sweden, of course, has its own education and health care system, both of which are well respected. So is Georgia's Republican majority coming up with a way to fund and manage a world class education system so we can remain competitive in the global economy?
No, our elected representatives and governor have decided to base our higher education funding policy on how many people buy lottery tickets. Our state government acts like a deadbeat dad hoping lottery tickets will pay for our children's education. What will our "conservative" officials come up with next? Pay for health care with a weekly bingo night?
There is a direct correlation between a state electing Republicans and receiving more federal dollars than its residents pay; the more they elect Republicans, the more federal dollars they receive.
This sounds bizarre but it makes sense if you think like a politician. If the "conservatives" didn't ask for federal money, they'd actually have to raise taxes locally to pay for government. It's much easier to apply for Obama's Race to the Top prize money than to actually fully fund education.
Why govern responsibly when you can take the deadbeat dad approach and mooch off mama fed and lower taxes while doing it?
I am proud of being a Southerner but somewhat ashamed of some aspects of that history. With history comes hope, as we can learn from previous mistakes. I've always liked the idea of states' rights, which are about having a government that is local and therefore more representative of and easily managed by the people. It's simply more democratic.
I believe most Confederate soldiers were in their hearts fighting for states' rights. Sadly, this fight for democracy was only within their minds. The reality is they were duped, under the guise of states' rights, into defending an oligarchy of slave owners determined to make slavery and its profit last as long as possible.
Eventually, international or economic pressure would have put an end to slavery in the Confederacy, but the oligarchs would have replaced slavery with a new system of exploitation that denied people access to education and human rights.
Just as the oligarchs of old tricked my ancestors into fighting for slavery in the name of freedom, the oligarchs of today are working their propaganda on the voters. These politicians yell "local control" but what do they do with the control they have?
The "states' rights" states lead the nation in rates of uninsured workers, malnutrition, teen pregnancy, high school dropouts and infant mortality. For the voters, states' rights may mean local control, but for the powers that be, states' rights are just a synonym for ignoring the responsibility of government, begging for federal money and then blaming the fed for the state's very own lack of leadership.
States' rights are fine, but with rights come responsibility. Let's vote out candidates who yell "states' rights" and "local control" yet ask for federal handouts instead of offering solutions that match the state's unique needs.
Brandon Givens is a Hall County resident and regular columnist.