Jackson: Only federal intervention will equalize

John J. Hughes Iii

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., has a plan to make America “a more perfect union” and he’s calling upon all Americans to help him implement it.

In a speech Sunday at Barnes & Noble, 1701 Sherman Ave., Jackson told about 50 people that the Constitution’s emphasis on states’ rights has obscured the more urgent issue of human rights. The congressman wants constitutional amendments to guarantee all Americans basic human rights – even if it means doing away with states’ rights.

The speech was part of a nationwide campaign to promote his new book, “A More Perfect Union,” published in October 2001.

In the book, Jackson proposes constitutional amendments to safeguard rights to quality health care, housing, education, a clean environment, fair taxes, full employment, equality for women and the right to vote against inequalities born largely from federalism.

Jackson regards race and federalism, the balancing of federal and state powers, as the two most important issues currently facing the nation and said they are at the heart of the debate over basic domestic issues such as education, health care and labor.

Jackson said race was the most profound prism through which to understand major political developments in American history.

While noting other perspectives – such as those of women, organized labor, and immigrants – were useful, Jackson identified shortcomings of those perspectives and argued that race was the most inclusive in explaining the nation’s history.

“Today’s race problem is not so much what happened to Rodney King or the differences between how whites perceive what happened to O.J. Simpson and how blacks perceive what happened to O.J. Simpson,” Jackson said. “(It) is how far we are willing to go to promote every American’s basic human rights.”

Race is linked to the fundamental inequalities of American society and even to the Constitution’s balancing of federal and state power, Jackson argued.

He said Southern slaveholders insisted on the 10th Amendment, which gives states all other powers not expressly given by the Constitution to the federal government, in order to protect the institution of slavery from federal intervention.

Even after the Civil War, Southern governments used the states’ rights argument to justify racist policies.

Class inequalities also have been continuously prevalent throughout American society, Jackson said, using public schools as an example. In Seattle, he said taxes from wealthy Microsoft Corporation executives allow schools to provide students with laptops. Jackson noted that Iowa, whose schools have little more than corn farmers to tax, cannot provide that or many other niceties of public education.

The only solution, Jackson concluded, is federal intervention to ensure equality across state boundaries.

“When it’s added to the Constitution, you’re not turning it over,” Jackson said in response to an audience member who asked why citizens should turn basic human rights over to a flawed federal government. “You’re making it clear that it is your right.”