Correcting Federalism

In an essay that is, unfortunately, behind a subscription firewall, Ramesh Ponnuru takes a mildly contrarian position on federalism:

Yet this may not be an auspicious time for a campaign to empower the states, since their own mismanagement has been in the headlines for several years. California and Illinois are the most familiar basket cases, but even Utah, the best-ranked state in Forbes’s survey of state-government debt, has unfunded pension obligations that amount to $7,000 per resident. At a time when states have been asking the federal government for bailouts, is it really a good idea to entrust them with more responsibilities? Will the public think so?
If political constraints end up blocking devolution, it might be a good thing, because the bigger problem with the conservative defense of the states is that it rests on mistaken premises. The decline of American federalism has not been a story of the federal government growing and state governments shrinking. It has been a story of governments at all levels growing at once, and collusively.

I say “mildly,” because to some extent the second paragraph answers the first, and Ponnuru surely knows it. Giving the states more responsibility and more autonomy will force them to behave more responsibly. The prerequisite, of course, is that the particular “autonomy” given is of the sink-or-swim kind, not of the adolescent bender kind. Ponnuru’s list of suggestions follows this line of thinking:

  1. Stop giving the states [federal] money.
  2. Cap the state- and local-tax deduction.
  3. Defend the Supreme Court when it limits states’ adventurism.
  4. Where federalism is in good working order, leave it alone.
  5. Stop creating new opportunities to sue state governments in federal court.
  6. Fix Medicaid.
  7. End McCarran-Fergusun [which enabled state-by-state regulation of health insurance.
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
OldTimeLefty
10 years ago

1. Stop giving the states [federal] money. Does this mean no more money for state’s militias. National Guard??
2. Cap the state-and local-tax deduction. Have Federal government collect all taxes and then distribute on a per capita basis.
3. Defend the Supreme Court when it limits states’ adventurism. Definition of state’s adventurism?? One person’s adventure is another’s safe haven.
4. Where federalism is in good working order, leave it alone. Where anything is in good working order leave it alone. This appears to say nothing.
5. Stop creating new opportunities to sue state governments in federal court. What has been created? Who has created the suits?
6. Fix Medicaid. See 4 above.
7. End McCarran-Fergusun [which enabled state-by-state regulation of health insurance. Good idea. We need a single payer system.

msteven
msteven
10 years ago

I’m still getting over agreeing with comments from OTL. Not all of course.
Stop giving the states [federal] money.
Does this mean no more money for state’s militias. National Guard??
—- Please. I think the National Guard refers to Federal as opposed to State. Just a guess though.
Cap the state-and local-tax deduction.
Have Federal government collect all taxes and then distribute on a per capita basis.
—– Yes, they tried this in the USSR & do it in Cuba, seems to work much better than capitalism. Just ask the people who live there.
3, 4, & 6 – I agree with OTL. Ouch.
5 – also needs to be defined more clearly. I agree that there are too many attempts to sue the States in Federal court. But I believe this is a judicial issue, not a legislative one. I will go so far as stop electing activists as Judges.
7. End McCarran-Fergusun [which enabled state-by-state regulation of health insurance.
Good idea. We need a single payer system.
—– OTL has a small point. This refers to 4. Doesn’t the health care bill “known as ObamaCare) end that? It seems to me that different regulation by states is related to interstate commerce. So where does the line get drawn?

Show your support for Anchor Rising with a 25-cent-per-day subscription.