The Pesofication of America

Now available in print: Michael S. Greve, “Our Federalism Is Not Europe’s. It’s Becoming Argentina’s,” 7 Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy 17 (2012). Alternative title: “We will pay our debts—in pesos.”

Among the more salient points and predictions: bailouts of lower-level governments in the U.S. won’t take the form of rescues of individual states (this isn’t Europe). Rather, they will take the form of across-the-board—and in that minimalist sense programmatic and rule-like—financial assistance, probably under some already existing statutory framework. A bailout of teacher pension funds under No Child Left Behind is an option, as is the federal assumption of state health care obligations for employees and retirees under the not-so-Affordable Care Act. Some such scheme will be coming soon to a theater near you, regardless of the November election outcome.

The Journal volume contains several other informative essays on state debt and bankruptcy.

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Obamacaid Revisited

In the pending Obamacare litigation, the plaintiff-states argue that Title II of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacaid”) unconstitutionally “coerces” them to participate in a grand expansion of Medicaid. I’ve argued here and there that the plaintiffs will and should lose that argument. A terrific amicus brief by Vanderbilt Law School professor James Blumstein makes a powerful case on the other side. Ultimately, Jim’s brief doesn’t fully persuade me. But it comes very, very close on account of its recognition that Obamacaid’s crucial problem has to do with the bilateral risk of opportunistic defection from a pre-existing, quasi-contractual relation (Medicaid), not with some “economic coercion” story about federalism’s “balance” and the poor, pitiful states and their faithful public servants. (For ConLaw dorks: the key cases are Pennhurst and Printz, not South Dakota v. Dole or Steward Machine.) I hope to explain sometime next week; today, a few additional remarks on economic coercion. Read more