Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rick Green: Feasibility and realities of secession

  For the most part, this is not the firebrand revolutionary movement of the 13 original States’ secession from England or the armed rebellion of the Southern States to form the Confederate States of America in the early 1860s. There are some individuals and organizations that advocate armed rebellion and hate in general. But for the most part the articles I have read advocate secession as a peaceful and legal matter.

  Some advocate that the United States is too big and complicated for a central government to oversee and control, that the politicians in Washington are self serving if not outright corrupt, there is too much diversity across the nation to be controlled by a central “every law fits all” government and that the current Democrat and Republican parties are out of touch with reality and needs of the people they are supposed to be representing.

  There is a strong resentment of federal encroachment into daily and personal matters in order to gain more power and control. Most of the authors, whether they are expressing a personal or an organization’s point of view, predict an economic crisis brought on by the spending policies of Washington. Many quote American and foreign economic experts who support these predictions.

  There is a general consensus among those advocating or seriously discussing secession that the United States will weaken substantially if there is another 9/11 type disaster or the Dollar becomes so inflated that a financial crisis ensues. This is coupled with prevailing opinion that the current president is weak, inexperienced in any aspect of government and will not act effectively or timely enough to forestall the break up of the Union.

  The possibility of a continuing recession and downturn to a full-blown depression could well set the stage for secession. With the continuing expenditures by the federal government without solid plans to reduce the budget deficit, other than print more money, I tend to believe that the piper must be paid somewhere down the line. Continued job loss and the resulting loss of tax revenues simply throw fuel on the fire.

  Most of the authors I have read on this subject share the view that they wish the president well and hope that solutions can be identified and enacted to keep the Union together. They are not optimistic that this will happen based on the usual politics between the White House and Congress. The writers seem to look at secession as plan B. We need a plan to fall back on if and/or when the crisis hits. There are of course those who dismiss the idea that secession could ever happen and anyone that takes it seriously is a nut job. I suspect many of the Greeks and Romans felt that nothing could weaken and topple their governments. Humans do not learn well from history.

  The legal aspect that makes secession an option are based primarily on the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This Amendment gives the federal government specific duties or obligations such as printing money, defense of the citizens and the like. Those obligations not specifically delegated to the federal government are retained by the state governments.

  The problem has been that the federal government over the years has been slowly but surely encroaching on the states’ responsibilities. This is usually done by offering the states money with the stipulation that if they accept the money, the federal government has a major say in how the monies are used and thus control the states with the strings attached.

  Another tactic is simply to ignore the Constitution. If the president’s party sufficiently controls the Congress, they can enact legislation and have it well in effect before a court case gets to the Supreme Court. Even if it does go to the Supreme Court the decision will be based on the politics of the Justices at the time as much as compliance with the Constitution. Another approach not often used, is that of President Andrew Jackson who once said, when the Supreme Court ruled against one of his actions, “Alright, they have made their decision, now let them enforce it.”

  Some of the states - Texas and Alaska in particular - are challenging the federal government in the form of baiting them using the Second Amendment, which relates to firearms. As most of us know the federal government has enacted laws that require certain firearms to be federally licensed and sold only by a licensed dealer to another licensed individual. There are federally mandated laws requiring security checks and tracking paperwork on all gun sales. Texas and Alaska are in the process of challenging the Feds by enacting a law that in essence forbids any federal regulation of weapons manufactured in Texas and intended for sale only in the State of Texas. This they feel is not a matter delegated by the states to the federal government.

  It is the intent of these states, at least in theory, to enact their right to withdraw from the Union if the Feds attempt to force regulation on weapons manufactured and sold in those states. Other states are following suit with similar legislation. At this time I believe Oklahoma is the only state to have enacted legislation that says the state has the legal right to remove itself from a unity to which they willingly agreed to participate.

  The preceding is simply to give the reader a reference point for the following discussion. Almost all the literature I have seen has concerned itself with cheerleading or dismissing the secession movement or offering the legalities and theories about how much better or worse off we will all be if the Union breaks apart. Some articles even go so far as to give detailed community organization and dispensation of local justice plans, much like that in China.

  The things I have not seen speak loudly by their absence. What are the practical obligations that the money strapped states are going to have to shoulder if the federal government breaks apart either totally or partially?

  The thing I see happening immediately is an economic challenge if not crisis for each independent state. They will be faced with printing their own money. Will that money be called a Dollar, or something else? How will the money be valued against the other world currencies? Will the new money be backed by gold or silver or some other commodity?

  They will need to completely redo their tax system. Will an income tax be collected or will there be some other means of funding the new government? There are a myriad of financial and banking questions that need to be discussed and thought out before a state secedes.

  One such question I am very interested in is, what happens to those people drawing Social Security or retirement income from the military or federal Civil Service? I am one of those people whose total income comes from retirement from the federal government.

  Will the state take on those huge obligations? If not, the new government might not last too long. There are a large number of federal/military/Social Security retirees, especially in the South where a large block of states are again discussing secession.

  Another area that needs to be considered is that of the military. Yes, each state has its own National Guard establishment, which I am sure they will continue to maintain. However there are many states that have very large contingencies of active duty and reserve troops and vast land areas that station and house these troops and on which they train and work. It appears to me that the states would not be able to shoulder the huge cost of these troops and facilities.

  Closing these facilities would mean a very large number of young men and women being released into a jobless society at one time. If I were one of those people I would tend to be more than a little angry and probably very bitter. It was bad enough for those of us who came back from Vietnam and were caught in the major downsizing of the military in the early 1970s.

  A single sovereign nation/state will need a diplomatic corps to not only deal with other nations but also to the other nation/states. The world is full of wolves who will come knocking at the state’s door even if it’s just to knock the door down. A single state is much more vulnerable than the Union. How, for instance, would the border states individually be able to defend against annexation by Mexico, or Alaska by Russia? The best answer I can come up with is a mutual defense agreement between the individual nation /states, and with the federal government, if there is one, governing the states that did not secede.

  There are many other potential problems that need be thought out before state secedes from the Union, things like tariffs, interstate commerce, infrastructure repair, reciprocity of laws, debt resolution between the states and what might be left of the Union, law enforcement and expedition of criminals between the nation/states and the rest of the world and on and on….

  After considering the problems involved with each individual nation/state dealing with a variety of general world and economic problems, I believe that it would be impractical for any length of time. A more practical approach would be the formation of a overall governing body that the nation/states could legally join or leave. This governing body would to a large degree resemble the old Confederate government. There would be some outstanding differences though.

  I have read the Provisional and the final Confederate Constitution. Those documents were for the most part a tweaked United States Constitution. Those parts of the federal Constitution that were deemed unacceptable to the Southern states were about the only things changed.

  If the writing of a new Constitution for a Confederation of nation/states becomes necessary there will need to be a much more changed document. For one thing the Southern states in the early 1860s were for the most part of the same mind and had the same issues that were causing them to leave the Union.

  This is not true now. There are states from the Northeast, Northwest, South, West, Southwest and Middle America that have Secession movements or discussions ongoing on the subject.

  The people of the various states must also consider that the federal government is like any other strong central government and is capable of killing a very large number of its citizens to maintain its grip on power. Just saying, “We quit!” probably won’t work out very well. At least not unless the Feds are in such financial crisis that they cannot afford to pay the armed forces.

  Secession leaders and advocates are pushing a peaceful (Gandhi and King style) and legal secession using protests, sit-ins, strikes, boycotts and the like. Good luck with that. I predict there will be some, if not a lot of bloodshed involved. Maybe it is just me and my pessimistic view of politicians, but I have a hard time seeing the president and power holders in Washington saying, “Off you go, it was fun while it lasted! Best of luck on your new endeavors, we will really miss you! And if your governors/presidents are in the area do have them drop by and see us!” More likely there would be a large explosion in the various state capitol buildings and a large presence of tanks and military forces in the capital cities.

  I served in the United States government as a soldier and civilian, in war ravaged and peaceful areas of the world for almost 40 years, and it breaks my heart to be seriously talking of states seceding from the Union. It is a shame that our politicians have brought us to this sorry situation. I still have some hope, though not much, that common sense will prevail and a way will be found to preserve the Union. So many have given so much for this country of ours, it would be unconscionable to let them down.

  Due to apparent or at least perceived incompetence of the federal government to resolve the problems facing the nation, there has, over the last few years, been a resurgence of a secession movement in among the states. This time it is not just the Southern states that are debating the possibility of peacefully seceding from the Union, but a wide range of states. At last count there were 22 states that have some form of secession bill being considered in their legislatures.

  About the author: Rick Green has a B.S. degree from Jacksonville State University and a J.D. degree from the Birmingham School of Law. He served in the U.S. Army from 1967 through 1987, five years of which were on active duty serving in Vietnam and Germany. Retired as a Reserve Major in the Military Intelligence Branch. He has worked with NASA, Defense Contracts Administration Service, USAID and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He served outside the United States as a civilian for approximately right years mostly in the Middle East. He is now retired.

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1 comment:

  1. Ho, ho. Alabama receives $1.67 for every dollar it sends to Washington.

    The Alabama economy certainly would dry up if the state successfully broke away. I'd move away, too, and take my SS check and pension with me.