Saving Federalism

The idea of restoring federalism in this country by repealing the 17th amendment has been brought up lately so I thought I would point out that the forces which have destroyed federalism run much deeper than the process of electing senators.

The problem is quite simple and could be easily solved although I don’t see anyone working to get it done.  Currently the federal government gets it’s money from taxing the citizens of the nation.  That is to say the citizens of all the individual states.  It then distributes the money back to each individual state in whatever way it sees fit.  This means they can make any state do whatever they want at any time.

The most well known example of this is probably the national minimum drinking age act of 1984.  When my parents were in college at WSU (Pullman, WA) they used to drive to Moscow, Idaho, to get beer because the drinking age there was only 18.  Then the federal government decided the drinking age should be 21 in every state.  Problem was they didn’t really have the power to militarily force such laws on the states (since we supposedly had a federalist system going on here).  However they do have the power to tax the states and give their money back to them (or not).  So what do they do?  They just say: “if any state doesn’t comply it gets no transportation funding.” Guess what, every state complies.

If we want to save federalism (which I for one do) we need to add an amendment to the constitution.  If we just prevent the federal government giving money to a state or spending money on any project which is localized to a particular state or region, we’d have our federalism back and we’d wipe out half of the “special interests” along with it. Or at least drive lobbyists to their respective state legislatures which is a step in the right direction.

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