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Prof. Jake Grumbach Interviewed by The New York Times, "There’s Been a Massive Change in Where American Policy Gets Made"

Submitted by Stephen Dunne on December 8, 2022 - 3:35pm
Prof. Jacob Grumbach
Prof. Jacob Grumbach

Ezra Klein of The New York Times interviewed Prof. Jake Grumbach about the shift of power from national to state politics.

Klein: "So tell me about what you call the, state policy resurgence."

Grumbach: "So the state policy resurgence is that, over the past generation, the state level has really become the main policymaker and the central battleground in American public policymaking, in contrast to the national level."

Klein: "So central battleground for what?"

Grumbach: "....We’ve had big national policies, like the Affordable Care Act, or SCHIP, or even Supreme Court rulings like in Obergefell, the legalization of gay marriage nationally.

And some of these national policies make states more similar. So national policy sets standards across the states, like the Voting Rights Act did — said, Jim Crow voting laws in some states are no longer allowed. States are going to become more similar.

But then you have some other of those policies — like the Affordable Care Act actually increased the role of the states through the Supreme Court ruling in N.F.I.B. v. Sebelius by allowing states to decide whether to expand Medicaid or not. And that was the flagship change done by the Affordable Care Act. So ironically, even the Affordable Care Act made the states more important for public policy and people’s health outcomes, due to Medicaid expansion differences across states.

But in general, those national policies that have standardized policy across the states have increasingly become the exception rather than the rule. So since the 1970s — and then even more so in the 1990s and 2000s — we saw Congress really polarize and become more gridlocked and increasing rates of divided government, where the presidency and Congress are held by different parties. All of that has created policy gridlock and slowed down the production of national policymaking.

And that’s in stark contrast to the 1930s through 1970s — the New Deal period and the Civil Rights period — where super important policies like Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, Medicare itself in 1965 — those really did make states much more similar. The poorer Southern states started catching up economically to the Northern states. Civil Rights law was standardized across states. So if you lived in a Northern and Southern state in the 20th century, your life became much more similar."

Please link here for the audio interview and transcript.