Opinion: Columnists

Conn Carroll: America's governing party

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"The United States faces a crisis in our political system," the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne wrote last December, "because the Republican Party is no longer a normal, governing party."

Dionne is half-right. The United States does face a crisis in our political system. Last week, Pew released a new study showing that trust in the federal government remains near all-time lows. Worse, for the first time ever, Pew found that a majority of Americans believe the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.

And it is not just Republicans who now see the federal government as a threat. A full 55 percent of independents agree with them, up from just 50 percent only two years ago.

But the story is completely different at the state and local level. According to a September 2012 Gallup poll, a full 65 percent of Americans trust their state government -- a 14-point jump in confidence from 2009.

Why is Americans' confidence in state and local government surging while their frustration and fear of the federal government are growing? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Republicans govern at the state level.

Republicans currently occupy the governor's mansions in 30 states, representing 58 percent of the U.S. population. They control both the governorship and legislature in 25 states, representing 52 percent of all Americans. Democrats enjoy such control of only 14 states, representing just 33 percent of the country.

And not only are Republicans governing more than half the country, they are objectively doing a much better job at it than Democrats are. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average unemployment rate in the 25 states controlled completely by Republicans is just 7.2 percent, more than half a point lower than the national 7.9 percent unemployment rate. In the 14 states with full Democratic control, unemployment is 8.4 percent, a full half-point higher than the national average.

The Republican state economies are growing faster too. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the real gross domestic product of the 25 Republican-controlled states has grown almost .25 points faster since 2008 than the real GDP of the 14 Democratic-controlled ones. And they aren't doing it by going into to debt. The Republican-controlled states on average have a Standard & Poor's credit rating a full grade higher (AA) than their Democratic counterparts (AA-).

Just look at Michigan, where Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm left her Republican successor, Rick Snyder, with a $1.5 billion budget deficit and an 11.7 percent unemployment rate. By cutting spending, simplifying taxes and reducing regulations, Snyder has produced a $400 million budget surplus. Unemployment has fallen almost 3 full points to 8.9 percent.

Asked what he believes the best thing the federal government can do for states like Michigan, Snyder said he and his Republican governors need more flexibility to manage health care, the environment and transportation. "We have a common customer," Snyder explained. "And so the way I view it is, we're a customer service organization. And I want to give great customer service. And I think at the state level we have an opportunity to give better customer service than the federal government simply because of size and scale. And do it more efficiently."

If President Obama and the Democrats want to improve the American people's trust in the federal government, they should heed the advice of Snyder and other Republican governors: Back off and give more power to the states. America's governing party will take it from there.

Conn Carroll (ccarroll@washingtonexaminer.com) is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner. Follow him on Twitter at @conncarroll.

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