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Building a Western Union

Chris Kutz, professor of law | November 18, 2016

The voters of the West Coast spoke unequivocally on November 8th, giving Hillary Clinton 60% of the vote, with 7.5 million votes, to Donald Trump’s 4.5 million, or 35%. These voters had good reasons. A Trump presidency endangers a range of policies common to California, Oregon, and Washington.

These three states are committed to ensuring access to health care, mitigating climate change, and maintaining humane policies toward immigrant families, both documented and undocumented. From a Trump administration and Ryan-McConnell Congress, we can expect rapid federal action to eliminate health care access guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act, to sell off national wilderness, forest and park land, to deregulate and encourage high-carbon fossil fuel use, and to terrorize and deport immigrant members of the community and work force.

Fears of such a political sea change have inspired a growing movement in California calling for a “Calexit” from the United States, accompanying the tens of thousands protesting in the streets. Oregonians are also initiating a ballot petition to secede from the nation. These are diversions from real action.

Secession is more impossible than unlikely, since it would require at least the equivalent of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that is, the assent of 2/3 of Congress and 3/4 of the states (or a civil war, as happened the last time certain states threatened to secede).

But there is a realistic way to protect the interests of the West Coast states: the leadership of the three states can form a tri-state political “Western Union,” sharing policies, markets and institutions in these areas of shared domestic interests, creating a supra-state region of progressive policy.

Thanks to our geographic contiguity, and to the Democratic legislatures and executives of all three states, we have a historic and unique opportunity to make a “blue wall” a wall that welcomes others in, while protecting our people, our environment, and our values from the demagoguery now menacing them.   A Western Union would be both an internationally resonant symbol and a practical way to find strength in policy coordination, in at least the three following ways:

Health care: California, Oregon and Washington have been aggressive in implementing the Affordable Care Act through state exchanges, with more than 1.1 million people enrolled in health care through that route. While states may find individual paths to guaranteed coverage, there are likely to be substantial efficiencies in combining their health care markets, coordinating expenditures and benefit levels, and ensuring competition among health plans. (Limited state insurance markets have posed a problem in low-population states, like Oregon.) More ambitiously, the Western Union could go beyond the ACA to establish a single-payer system. Such systems, which minimize administrative costs while maximizing coverage, work best with a larger pool of beneficiaries and premium payers. Political opposition, especially at the national level, has precluded a single payer healthcare system in the United States. The common blue politics of the West Coast states makes such an ambition realizable for the first time.

Immigration: Together, the western states include about 2.2 million undocumented workers, with a total undocumented population estimated at 3.3 million. Undocumented immigrants are essential to the economy and social structure of our states. They harvest and prepare our food, tend our children, care for our sick and elderly, build and clean our houses. Many young immigrants, under DACA and state DREAM Acts, are studying in our colleges and universities, developing advanced skills. A Trump policy of deportation would have catastrophic effects on our local and regional economies, and on the national food supply, as well as on the lives of the immigrants themselves, including 300,000 children. Our Blue Wall could involve a coordinated policy of non-cooperation by state and local authorities in Federal harassment and deportation efforts, extending a “sanctuary city” model to the West Coast as a whole while launching coordinated legal defenses. By means of such measures, a Western Union could delay and impede mass deportations. Meanwhile, a Western Union, all of whose members depend on a continuing inflow of skilled and unskilled immigrant workers, can work together to continue to attract the best and brightest from around the world.

Environmental protection: California has long been a national leader in environmental policy, especially with regard to climate change and the path to a low-carbon economy. Oregon and Washington have recently begun to incorporate California-style carbon emission caps and trading systems into their environmental policies, and have coordinated regulations and approaches among western cities. As with health care, environmental policy is a domain where effectiveness grows with the size of the region covered. For example, emissions controls obviously work better over larger areas. Washington-driven deregulation will inevitably accelerate global climate change. But given the size of the western economies and their own fraction of national carbon contributions, a regional commitment to maintain environmentally protective policies can make a crucial difference.

Westerners are dismayed, not to say despairing, at the damage done by a bare 27% of eligible American voters, and a total of about four million fewer than voted for Hilary Clinton. But we can do better than be dismayed. California’s political leaders have already announced their rejection of Trumpism and their intention to resist it. With Washington and Oregon, we can together show the rest of the country a more perfect union. Now is the time to build a Blue Wall, not of exclusion, but of informed stewardship, enlightened governance and unstinting humanity.


Comments to “Building a Western Union

  1. I began drawing borders on November 9, but I was just fantasizing. Bring in Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado. Assist Arizona conservatives with moving to Utah, and Utah liberals with moving to Arizona or an other state so there would be one contiguous country. Maybe even renegotiate the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and bring back Alta California.

  2. if an action plan grows from this, i’d love to see & join it… perhaps something easier to share (and make viral), such as a Facebook postable petition addressed to the relevant state legislators/administrators? thanks

  3. I absolutely love and support this idea. Forming the united states in 1776 was an important move back then. It was necessary for the roughly 2.5 Million Americans to join forces and get independent.

    In 2016, 240 years later, it makes equally sense for the 50 Million Western Union people to become independent and work on fixing their own problems, rather than waiting for a “central system” that has grown to a monsterous size with no real benefit for the entire federation.

    I wrote about that in a different way in June

  4. “we can expect rapid federal action to … terrorize and deport immigrant members of the community and work force.”

    So Mr Kutz, would have preferred four years of terrorizing citizens by shielding illegal aliens and encouraging the next 12 million. He believes the selfish interest of the alien should supersede the personal interests of citizens?

    The Statue of Liberty holds aloft tablets proclaiming the rule of law and salutes the end of slavery in America. She is not a beacon of lawlessness nor a cheerleader for ‘cheap’ immigrant labor.

    • I suggest you’re not paying the least bit of attention to this issue. Here’s why.

      1. The reason why there are so many Latino illegals is because REAGAN demanded that Congress dismantle the law that prosecuted BUSINESSES WHO HIRE THEM. Instead, Congress changed the law to put the onus on the illegals. Jobs don’t magically appear. Businesses HIRE those people. Since those businesses are no longer legally obliged to NOT hire illegals at depressed wages, they do so at a rate unprecedented in our history. Republicans in Congress, acting under a Republican POTUS did this. No one else did it.

      2. Congress makes law. They’ve decided to completely ignore their job to deal with immigration reform. Not one Republican in Congress has decided to take this issue up. Instead, they’ve decided to disparage Obama, who doesn’t make law, but rather signs law drafted by the Congress who has decided to allow businesses to continue to hire illegals with impunity.

      The fact that you’re grossly unaware of those two important details regarding illegal workers tells us that you’re either a troll or willfully ignorant of the facts AND a troll.

      • Mark, just found your response and I’m confused. Doesn’t title 8 U.S.C. 1324a(e)(4)(A)(i) Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”) cover Unlawful employment of aliens? I think around June 2016 the fees imposed for businesses who hire illegals increased. Maybe I’m reading the immigration law wrong…

  5. Thank you for this nice article. We’re in pursuit. Western Union is doing a very good job in Turkey.

  6. Good question – I’ve been wondering myself. Please feel free to circulate this blog post, and to be in touch with local legislators; that’s what I am doing! If you have any ideas, I’d love to know!

  7. Divide California into 3 or more separate states for more equitable electoral and congressional representation.
    Rural America has too much electoral power relative to its smaller population and this inequality benefits the Republicans.
    “Today, states containing just 17 percent of the American population, a historic low, can theoretically elect a Senate majority.” *
    ” Wyoming (with one House representative and two senators) gets three
    votes; California (53 representatives and two senators) gets 55. Those two senators
    effectively give Wyoming three times more power in the Electoral College than its
    population would suggest. Apply the same math to California and it would have 159 Electoral College votes. And the entire state of Wyoming already has fewer residents than the average California congressional district.” *

    *Emily Badger, NYT, 11-20-16

    • Interesting thought! — though I would guess that water politics, among many other issues, might tend to reduce governmental performance/social welfare in the collective three new states.

      On a partisan/balance basis, I would think it would have the effect of adding two electoral votes to the blue column (in the new blue statelet), and three or more to the red column, since I’d think one of the states would be Central Valley and probably R, so the Rs would get two new Senators (matching the new blue state), plus however many district-based votes the new region would get, since they will now go with the majority of the red statelet. So it might be a net loss for Team Blue. The other congressional-district based electoral votes would stay blue, since they are just transferring over from Greater California.

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