From medical insurance to family leave policies, solutions to social issues facing the nation are coming not from Washington, but from the various states. From one point of view, that's a benefit, since it opens the way for different and creative approaches. But the larger picture is less encouraging.
Not all states have the strong leadership or the fiscal resources to address social problems effectively. Moreover, many governors across the nation are facing record deficits, exacerbated by increased mandates from Congress. These mandates -- such as expansions of entitlement programs like Medicaid -- increase the financial burdens on states, but do not bring with them any new financial resources to meet the cost.
A dozen or so states have passed laws requiring businesses to grant workers unpaid family leave for birth, adoption or medical emergencies, and states like Maryland are beginning serious discussions of solutions to providing health insurance to people who have no health care coverage. Even so, if social issues are left entirely to the states, the country will end up with a patchwork of policies -- resulting in some grave inequities.