One of the most disturbing (and least discussed) trends in the United States is the way federal grants for programs ranging from health care to education to housing to transposition have turned the states into administrative units of the federal government.
Congress and federal bureaucrats use these grants to impose federal mandates on the states. Unfortunately, even the most "fiscally conservative" governor will not refuse "free" federal money ( actually money stolen from the taxpayers to spend on unconstitutional purposes) so they will trade their constitutional sovereignty for a check from DC.
The desire for federal grants also turns state and local governments from check on federal overreach into a means for expansion of the federal government.
Former Senator (and federal judge) James Buckley explores the effect of federal grants on our system of goverment in his new book Saving Congress from Itself.
Senator Buckley also addressed this issue in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal:
Those programs, which provide funding for Medicaid as well as everything from road and bridge construction to rural housing, job training and fighting childhood obesity—now touch virtually every activity in which state and local governments are engaged. Their direct cost has grown, according to the federal budget, to an estimated $640.8 billion in 2015 from $24.1 billion in 1970.
Their indirect costs, however, go far beyond those numbers both in terms of dollars wasted and the profound distortions they have brought about in how we govern ourselves. Because the grants come with detailed federal directives, they deprive state and local officials of the flexibility to meet their own responsibilities in the most effective ways, and undermine their citizens’ ability to ensure that their taxes will be used to meet their priorities rather than those of distant federal regulators. The irony is that the money the states and local governments receive from Washington is derived either from federal taxes paid by residents of the states or from the sale of bonds that their children will have to redeem.
Congress finds the authority to enact those programs in the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution’s general-welfare clause in Steward Machine Co. v. Davis (1937). More recently, in the court’s 2012 NFIB v. Sebelius decision upholding the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that Congress may use federal funds to “induce the States to adopt policies that the Federal Government itself could not impose,” so long as participation by the states is voluntary. To put it another way, Congress is licensed to dabble in areas in which it is forbidden to act, which it does by bribing the states to adopt Congress’s approaches to problems that are the states’ exclusive responsibility.
It is impossible, in this article, to detail all the costs imposed by those programs, but here are some of the most egregious ones: They add layers of federal and state administrative expenses to the cost of the subsidized projects; distort state priorities by offering lucrative grants for purposes of often trivial importance; and undermine accountability because state officials bound by federal regulations can’t be held responsible for the costs and failures of the projects they administer.
Finally, and of prime importance, those programs have subverted the Constitution’s federalism, its division of federal and state responsibilities, that was intended to prevent a concentration of power in a central government that could threaten individual liberties.
Read the rest of the article here.
Carl Bogus has a informative review of Senator Buckley's book for The American Conservative.
You can purchase Senator Buckley's book here, also don't forget to buy Campaign for Liberty chairman Ron Paul's book Swords into Plowshares, which examines the distortions to our constitutional system caused by the warfare state.
Tags: federalism, federal spending