Whenn the feds say jump, Idaho leaders ask how high. Think environmental regulations and policies regarding health care, education, marriage and so on. Next will be water adjudication and another national monument.
Yes, there have been times when Idaho leadership has pushed back on the feds, but they are increasingly rare. You might ask why that is, especially when the majority of Idahoans disagree with a lot of the directives coming out of Washington, D.C.
The bandwagon answer is often “… because it’s the law of the land” or something similar. Yeah, so is immigration enforcement and the anti-marijuana law. Of course federal laws should not be ignored, but imagine if our founding fathers blindly accepted whatever was dictated to them by the prevailing government at the time. That’s right, there would be no America. My point is this: There are legitimate methods to exercise sovereignty that other states routinely employ, but Idaho leaders typically don’t consider them. Here are two reasons why:
Money. The federal government is the largest source of revenue for Idaho’s budget — about 36 percent of it. So in effect, the feds are our “lender” (which is disturbing, knowing of their $18 trillion-plus debt), and it’s difficult to go against the edicts of your lender for fear of fiscal retribution. Here’s more detail: For every $1 Idahoans pay in federal taxes, we receive somewhere around $1.34 in federal subsidies (the exact amount fluctuates annually). Again you may ask, why? There’s no single answer, but one significant reason is this: The feds control 62 percent of the land within Idaho borders. Since these lands can’t be taxed and/or utilized like state or privately controlled land, the feds offer “offset money” in the form of subsidies, and subsidies come with strings attached. That’s why it is critical to get management authority of our land: to reduce federal dependency and shift control of our destiny from Washington, D.C., to Idaho.
Compliance. Idaho leaders are generally compliant by nature. Noncompliance means a fight may ensue, and it‘s easier to conform than fight. And even for those inclined to fight, taking on the feds is difficult. Although any citizen or elected official can have an impact, some are better positioned than others when it comes to resisting broad-scale federal directives. Organizational structure and constitutional authority favor the governor, the attorney general and the local sheriff(s). If you understand the mindset of the people in those roles, you will get an idea of the level of federal compliance (or resistance) to expect.
When our nation was formed, the general (now “federal”) government was created to serve the states. But the pendulum has shifted, leaving states in an increasingly “reactionary” position. If this doesn’t concern you, it should. The further away the policy-setter, the harder it is to hold them accountable. And unpleasant as it is, we must hold our leaders accountable and fight to protect what we hold dear.
Russ Fulcher lives in Meridian. He served five terms in the Idaho Senate, including a stint as majority caucus chair. He was a Republican candidate for governor in 2014.