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A Modest Proposal: The Two-State Solution for America

by Laurie Israel, A.B., M.A., J.D.

America has been suffering from political gridlock for a number of years. Democrats and Republicans are at each other’s throats on virtually every important political issue that we face. Cultural issues and the role of religion in our society are hotly contested inside and outside the courts. The conflict is making everyone tired and distressed. Not a good result for our citizens or our country.

As for my part, I have been pondering a solution to these issues for many years. I have considered and rejected various alternatives and evaluated the ideas of others, which I find flawed and grossly mistaken.

Finally, after much thought, I have found a way to solve this problem.

I therefore humbly propose these ideas as something that will surely improve the mental health of everyone in this country, from the most humble undocumented person to the masters of industry and the politicians who control the government.

I have been assured by my good friends that the idea is sound and can be implemented. What it consists of is the adoption of a “two-state” system right here in America.

Here is how it would work:

1. No one would need to move.

The wonderful thing about my plan is that you won’t need to move. Thanks to the miracle of modern digital communications and the internet, communities and even states no longer need to geographically de-friend each other. They can be “virtual,” thus allowing very different populations to coexist without unduly annoying each other.

This can happen on the federal level. The “Red” State and the “Blue” State will consist of two separate federal systems. Each will be a separate regime with its own laws, elected officials and administration. All you have to do is sign up for one or another. As a result, you can stay right where you are. It’s as easy as registering to vote. (At least in some states.)

If you’re of the conservative bent, no need to actually move to a red state. Just sign up for the Red State national regimen. If you’re a liberal or progressive, sign up for the Blue State national regimen. As a result, “red” and “blue” states would no longer be geographic terms. They would just be a form of national citizenship.

All citizens over 18 would be required to register. Children under the age of 18 would be assumed to have their parents’ “state” affiliation. This way there would be an accurate population count for red state and blue state residents, which will be important in some allocations of costs and benefits as described herein.

The Red State may want to have more stringent registration requirements, such as poll taxes or literacy tests. The Blue State can accept registrations from Hillary supporters, dead people, undocumented immigrants, and the like.

All that is needed to put the two-state solution into effect would be the enactment of a single federal constitutional amendment. The amendment would duplicate the U.S. Constitution and all federal law, case law, and regulations, one for the Red State and one for the Blue State.

After an initial period of adjustment, and the election of a president for each federal system, the Red State and the Blue State will be free to enact changes in these laws to their liking. Each of the states would have its own, separately appointed Supreme Court. It will be so refreshing not to have to compromise anymore!

Yes, I admit, enacting constitutional amendments has been difficult in the past. But now times are different. Red and Blue state people find each other’s views so repugnant that I’m sure our Congress would easily adopt this mega-Amendment by the two-thirds vote required, and state ratification likewise would proceed very swiftly. It would be nothing like that irritating Equal Rights Amendment that never got ratified.

An identical process would be set up for the individual states and localities (cities, towns and counties), which would duplicate their own structure and laws, and provide one template for its Blue citizens and one for its Red citizens.

For instance, the Red New Jersey would have Chris Christie as its governor, and the Blue New Jersey would have a new governor to be elected by the “blue” New Jersey voters. One New Jersey government can close down the George Washington Bridge, and the other could open it right up again.

Yes, it is true that there might be a short period of minor adjustment as the two states separate themselves. But I think this period would be quite short, since Red and Blue people are so eager to have nothing to do with each other.

But once this all sorts out and the Red State and Blue State start to operate independently, I can assure you that it will be a truly wonderful situation. Everybody will love it. Stress will go way down, and people will be able to disengage themselves from cable news and the internet.

2. Separate voting and separate taxing systems.

For federal, state and local purposes, each person would vote for the laws and candidates within his or her chosen political system. So Red State voters can choose to have tax cuts and decreased spending on entitlements such as Social Security and health insurance. Blue State voters can vote for more supportive and socialistic laws, including single payer health insurance and environmental protections. Blue State people will no longer have to transfer tax money to the Red State, and the Red State will not have to support the entitlements provided in the Blue State. The Blue State citizens could even vote in Bernie Sanders as president if they want to.

The National Debt would be divided immediately after the federal two-state amendment in proportion to the populations within the Red State and Blue State. Even though it is expected that the federal Blue State will initially have a larger population and may attract many Red state citizens in the future, the initial National Debt division would stand, and would not be readjusted yearly.

3. Federal, state and local services coordination.

On the federal level, the Red and the Blue states would join together in providing for a very limited list of necessary national services for the entire country, such as air traffic control. Federal, state and local governments could sign treaties coordinating administration of interstate and intrastate highways. (See below for national defense, national parks and national museums.) Taxes required for joint Red/Blue state functions would be in proportion to the aggregate numbers of the Red and Blue state populations. The Red and Blue states would be required to raise taxes for these purposes. This would limit contact and coordination to the absolute necessities.

At the state and local levels, the Red and Blue states will each be responsible to provide education for the children within their respective systems through high school. Higher education will be split into Red and Blue state services, even within one state-supported public institution, with the students’ State providing its respective share of financial support.

4. Preventing Intra-state Abuses.

After thinking about this a bit, I thought that a problem that could arise if, say, a person who signed up for the Red State federal or state regimen wants to change his or her registration. This could happen if, for instance, the Blue State enacted a single payer health plan and the Red State had no coverage for pre-existing conditions and no required universal coverage.

What if someone in the Red State gets very sick? That’s easy. A waiting period can be required before a person changing political regimes can reap the financial benefit of switching from Red to Blue, or vice versa. For health benefits, perhaps a five-year waiting period would be appropriate. Until then they could rely on the generosity of their blood relatives and on what Red state support network exists to help them through this rough period.

The same could apply for nursing home benefits. The Social Security and Medicaid systems, as well as the tax raising systems for these “entitlements” would be different in the Red and Blue states. But before handing their senile and incontinent grandmother to a Blue state nursing home, there will be a ten-year waiting period for Red State citizens. Hopefully, by that time, the elder will either die or be placed on an ice floe (if one still exists).

Yes, the Blue State will continue to raise taxes and pay for their old people to stay in nursing homes when their families tire of them. But they will likely have more people (including formerly undocumented aliens) to provide the tax base for this support. Also, the Blue State can openly enact liberal euthanasia laws and death panels without receiving quibbling criticism by Red state residents.

Abuses could also occur in public school enrollment. The Red State, on the local level, may eliminate public schools and rely instead on home schooling, charter schools, and religiously-based schools as their means of education. They may have different requirements for teachers and curriculum.

But if a Red state mom gets sick of home schooling her children and wants to send them to a nearby, excellent, and professionally staffed Blue state school, she will have to wait five years before she can enroll her children in the Blue state public schools. This would make people responsible for their own values and choices, something that everyone agrees with and supports.

5. Gun control and other criminal behavior.

At first, I found this issue very challenging to resolve since we will all occupy the same neighborhoods, towns and cities. However, after turning my thoughts intently upon it and weighing several options, I was able to come up with a workable solution.

Under the two-state system, Red and Blue can do what they want about gun control. The Red State laws can allow AR-15s to be bought by sullen teenagers and recently released angry white male mental patients. A Blue state can prohibit all guns, except those accessible from rental vending services for short-term use in areas set up as hunting grounds by Blue states.

But if a Red state person with a gun hurts, kills or maims Blue state people in a rampage or otherwise, that Red person shall be under the jurisdiction of the Blue criminal justice system for punishment and financial losses resulting from the gun violence. Similarly, any other violent crimes or criminality against a citizen of one state against the other state’s citizen would be punishable under the laws of the state of the victim of the crime. Parents with children under eighteen will be completely liable in both civil and criminal law for damage their children do to people of the other state system. Yes, Blue state laws may go easy on a person from the Red State, but it would be freely expressing its own values. That’s very important in American political culture.

6. The Environment.

I described my scheme to a very worthy and intelligent person whose opinion I respect. He asked me (somewhat belligerently) to explain how the two states could coexist if they each had entirely different laws pertaining to environmental protection. It’s the old “second-hand smoke” problem — pollutants created by the people of one-state system would be inhaled by their neighbor in the other state.

I believe his concern is grossly mistaken and blown completely out of proportion.

I am convinced that Red state people don’t want “no” environmental controls; they just want fewer. They want to make sure environmental controls don’t impair their ability to make a living. That’s certainly an understandable goal, as President Trump has agreed.

Another factor that gives me comfort about the environmental effect of possible Red State laws, is that the tide is turning. Environmentally-friendly sources of energy are now becoming more economical than polluting sources of energy. So even if the Red State wants to put the coal miners and the video store clerks back in business, the tide of the global economy will cause all boats to rise, and the environment will clean itself up. It has to.

They may call me a Pollyanna (my spouse certainly does), but I love America (and the entire World, for that matter). I know that the environment will get cleaner, no matter what obstacles some very nice people with other points of view might put in the way.

7. Immigration and Terrorism.

One of the most hotly discussed issues during the recent presidential election was what to do about the undocumented persons who are living here. This is a very upsetting situation for everyone, not the least of whom are the immigrants who have lived here for years, and are raising families comprised of U.S. citizens.

There is a very simple solution to this one. The Red State will make its own immigration laws, and The Blue State will make its own set. Yes, it is true, there may be a flood of undocumented immigrants into the Blue State, but this will surely have a positive outcome. The Red State will rid itself of the obligation to provide benefits to illegal immigrants, and competition for jobs will be reduced.

Blue State voters will view the influx as a benefit. Blue State voters tend to view immigration as integral to our economic growth and believe that immigrants strengthen our country through their hard work. The Blue State will have more people engaged in its burgeoning economy. This means they will be able to collect more payroll and income taxes to support public programs. It’s a win-win situation for both the Blue State and the Red State.

You might ask me, “But what about the wall between the former United States and Mexico?” Not a problem. Red State money can be used to build the wall. And there can be attractive doors placed at various points along the wall to provide access to immigrants invited in by the Blue State.

Terrorism is another issue that required much reflection on my part. The Red and Blue states may want to set up different rules for immigration vetting, security, wiretapping, search and seizure, and the like. But what if a person allowed in by the Blue State launches a terror attack that harms Red state citizens?

The resolution could be structured similarly to the gun violence problem above. If a terrorist registered to, or admitted by the Blue State commits violence against Red State citizens, that person would be prosecuted and punished under Red State laws. And vice versa. The rule would apply to homegrown terrorists, and to terrorist attacks against African Americans, LGBT persons, and other disfavored minorities.

8. Cultural issues and Religion.

Hotly disputed cultural issues are generally wrapped around religious arguments and beliefs. Views on abortion boil down to religious views on whether a fetus is a person. If so, someone could reasonably view abortion as murder. However, one person’s “murder” is another person’s “family planning.” This is an easy one to solve. “Live and let live,” I always say.

The Red State can adopt its own abortion laws, and the Blue State can do the same. The same holds true for LGBT and civil rights. As they say, if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married. Adopting the two-state solution is a great way to resolve the religion-state issue and get each other out of our respective hairs.

The Red and Blue states will be able to revise and/or reinterpret the First Amendment, which sets up that ambiguous “establishment” clause. It’s the cause of all our culture wars! Anyway, who really cares about such an old law? It’s subject to so many interpretations, who really knows what it means? But if there is a blue state and a red state, each of them can decide what it means for themselves.

If the voters wish, the Red State can become a theocracy, even a Christian one. People who don’t like it can sign up for the Blue State. Avoiding conflict is a good thing. We’ll all feel better!

9. National Defense.

I realize this is a huge issue, and many people have questioned me about it. I have thought a great deal about this, and humbly propose my thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to anyone’s objection.

Everyone thinks, at first, that the Red and Blue states would have to coordinate and have one national defense system, because the states would be geographically intertwined. But since the Red and Blue states want nothing to do with each other, I respectfully offer this solution for your serious consideration.

I think it best for the Red State and the Blue State to conduct their international affairs separately. Yes, it would be possible for a “Blue” decision to rain down a war on “Red” citizens, but that can happen at any moment even now with our present one-state federal system of government.

The Red and Blue states would raise money for defense separately and make their own international security decisions. Yes, if there were attacks against the U.S. on U.S. soil, “Red” defense would benefit “Blue” citizens (and vice versa), but so be it.

If a Red State action provoked an attack on U.S. soil, the Blue State could either defend its citizens against attack, or it could make peace with the foreign power. This would put pressure on the Red State to change its behavior. The Red and Blue states would even be free to engage in war against each other. (This does somehow remind me of something, although I can’t quite place it.) But as a believer in freedom, I think the Red and the Blue states should be free to make their own decisions about their future relationships with each other and with foreign countries through their own diplomatic systems.

10. National parks and national museums.

Just as I was finishing up and thought I had everything all worked out, a very smart friend of mine, who heard my description of this little treatise, asked me, “But what about the national parks?” I admit, I was somewhat flummoxed and struck mute for a moment, and I didn’t have a ready answer for my smart friend.

However, after thinking about it for a while, I came up with an excellent solution that I think everyone will agree will flawlessly resolve this issue. This solution would apply to all our precious national assets, including national parks and national museums.

The constitutional amendment setting up the parallel federal Red and Blue states would have a provision stating that ownership of the national parks (and other national assets) would be a tenancy in common in proportion to the underlying populations of the Red and Blue states. This ownership would come with the joint obligation to maintain the properties in the same proportions as underlying populations.

If the Red State wished to sell some of those properties, or parts of them, the Blue State would have a “right of first refusal” to meet the offer made by a bona fide third party purchaser. In other words, the Blue State could purchase the property that the Red State wants to sell at the price offered by that third party.

Because it is reasonable to expect that it will be more attractive to become a Blue State citizen. Because there will be more Blue State tax revenues (because Blue State citizens are not tax adverse and are, by nature, socialistic), it will be easy for the Blue State to buy the national park assets that the Red State wishes to sell to raise money.

The purchase by the Blue State will increase its ownership interest in the asset. Access to the national treasure would be based on ownership. Accordingly, Red State visitors would be required to pay hefty additional fees to enjoy the national assets that it has sold off. That will more than pay for the Blue State’s purchase of the property and provide fairness between the two states.

Conclusion:

It is so sad to experience on a daily basis the degree of conflict in our society that we are now experiencing. I’m convinced, as are many of my good friends and blood relatives that the two-state solution would completely solve all the problems we face in America. I welcome any readers of the proposal who are true lovers of this country to make refinements of my plan as they think are suitable, in order to prepare for our speedy transition to the two-state system.

As posted on Huffington Post on 5/22/2017.

© 2017 Laurie Israel.

Laurie Israel

Laurie Israel

Laurie Israel, a founder of Israel, Van Kooy & Days, LLC, a law firm located in Brookline, Massachusetts. She combines a family law practice with estate planning, tax, mediation and collaborative law. Laurie is a former board member of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation and the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council. Her writings include articles on divorce, mediation, marital mediation, and prenuptial agreements. You can find her articles on www.ivkdlaw.com, Huffington Post, and Mediate.com. She is the author of the forthcoming book The Generous Prenup: How to Support Your Marriage and Avoid the Pitfalls.
Laurie Israel

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