The United States isn’t very united these days, and President Trump’s selections for his cabinet suggest he is a strong believer in meritocracies. Per the Cambridge English Dictionary, a meritocracy is “a social system, society, or organization in which people have power because of their abilities, not because of their money or social position.” Somewhat ironically, Mr. Trump appears to judge a person’s abilities primarily on whether he or she has a lot of money, but let’s stick with the abilities part of the definition.
President Trump values people whom he sees as having merit. Regardless of how he arrives at his conclusions, these people form the core of the executive branch’s leadership team. The American people voted for change and they are certainly going to get it with Mr. Trump and his cabinet. One of those likely changes will be an emphasis on states’ rights, including encourging (forcing?) states to take over responsibility in administering programs that are currently jointly controlled with the federal government. Medicaid is one example. Both the healthcare plan put out by the House of Representatives’ Republican Leadership last summer and the President’s executive order on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) indicate a plan to put states in control of Medicaid. Education, healthcare programs for working Americans not covered by employer-sponsored plans, and even Medicare could follow.
But just how far will this meritocracy go? If the President is used to judging people based on their abilities, might he also begin judging states in the same way? Does a state with a high per capita gross domestic product (GDP) have more merit than a state with a low one? Do the leaders of a state with a strong, diversified economy have better abilities than those in states with weak, heavily dependent economies? How about the ability to recover from manmade or natural disasters? Will those states with programs in place to clean up and rebuild quickly be valued more in the Trump Administration? If so, will those states judged to have more merit be given more power?
This is not an idle question. If this meritorious belief is important to President Trump, shouldn’t he reward those states who make the country stronger with their industry, management and insurance against disaster? With a push toward putting the states in charge of administering more programs, shouldn’t the states that have proven their worth be given more money and control in the process? Might the whole budget for a given program be divided up and distributed to the states based on gross domestic product? That way, every dollar that a state receives is directly proportional to their financial medit to the country. If a state feels cheated with such a system, all they have to do is increase their per capita GPD, and they’ll receive more funds the following year. Well, at least that’s one way to think about it in a meritocracy.
This, of course, would never happen, even if the President wanted such a system. For the most part, the states with the highest GPD vote Democratic, while those with the lowest vote Republican. Those Republican-leaning states also tend to have a higher percentage of their residents dependent on Medicaid and other social safety net programs. The House of Representatives would never go for such a merit-based system in which their Republican voters would receive less money per capital.
It is an interesting thought exercise for a President Trump Administration which is functioning as a dictatorship in its first week-and-a-half. When the brain is stressed out by the unknown possibilities that come from governance by executive order, it fills the gap with its own ideas.