Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is Federalism Dead?

As I was working on my "Health Care in America" piece, it occurred to me that just about every discussion looks for action on the part of the President (who in reality has no power to enact any legislation) or Congress. I began to wonder why one rarely finds people pushing their Governors or state legislatures for resolution to the health care "crisis"?

While I probably should keep quiet on that front since it wouldn't take much prodding for New Jersey to enact a single-payer boon-doggle, I'll poke this bear anyway.

It seems like every problem (or perceived problem) we encounter becomes an issue for the US Government to solve - weather it be carbon emissions, health care, unemployment, etc.

Hoards of people flock to the polls every 4 years to vote for president - while relatively few show up in the "off" years - which is odd because your Senators & Congressmen actually have the job of representing your state's issues in DC. Even fewer still could actually name their state representatives/senators or assemblymen - who enact legislation that has more direct impact where you live.

Unless you live in a major city like New York or LA, the likelihood that you know who your mayor or town council members are.

Local politics and ordinances are more likely to impact an individuals daily living, and yet our entire focus is on Washington.

I'm interested to discover when this tendency began. Bob or Joe would know more on this front than I do, but early in our nation - probably until at least World War I, people cared far more about local politics than Washington. Our nation was founded in a manner that enabled the Colonies to band together for defense - and keep their own matters to themselves. The 10th Ammendment specifically protected the ability for states to govern themselves.

My question here is this: What triggered this shift in focus from local politics to national? Do you forsee a point in time when state governments have little or no power? What benefits (if any) does centering power in DC have? What are the detriments?

For myself, I view the centralization of power as harmful - not the least because it prevents individual states experimenting with policies. If a plan fails, we harm the entire nation. At the state level, we can copy succesful policies from one another and pass on those that fail. Without individuality among the states, this is not possible.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I think it's "funny" how everyone always looks to the next level up for support. Let's take property tax relief for example. During the local elections, I hear radio ads of politicians promising to fight for "me" to get the money from Trenton that I "deserve" to help defray the cost of property tax.

    Trenton, in turn, says that they cannot give as much relief as they want to because they are not getting the money that I "deserve" from the federal government.

    Like John said, it is the local level that affects us the most. The answer to high property taxes is not to ask the state or the feds for more money but to lower the tax burden on the property owners. It seems to me that if the property taxes were lower, it would attract more people to the area. More people would buy property in the low tax areas. More people paying less taxes per person equals more revenue.