Posts tagged ‘Federalism’

Misc Stuff

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James Madison, Wisdom and Warnings

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America is Not the Federal Government

America is not the federal government.

Take a minute to let that thought sink in. America is not the federal government.

In fact, America is not much about government at all. In America, government is one of those things you have to have, but you sure don’t want too much of it…kind of like your in-laws.

This is of course the polar opposite of the political debate in our country today.

At present we have one party that wants to be in charge of the federal government so they can expand it, and one party that wants to be in charge of the federal government so they can get it under control.
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We think if we can just unite behind a proposal to cut the deficit and debt…if we can just put together a spreadsheet and a power point and a TV ad . . . all will be well.

This obsession with zeroes has everyone in our party focused on what? Government.

By obsessing with zeroes on the budget spreadsheet, we send a not-so-subtle signal that the focus of our country is on the phony economy of Washington – instead of the real economy out here in Charlotte, and Shreveport, and Cheyenne.


We also must face one more cold hard fact – Washington is so dysfunctional that any budget proposal based on fiscal sanity will be deemed ‘not-serious’ by the media, it will fail in the Senate, and it won’t even make it to the President’s desk where it would be vetoed anyway.

In fact, any serious proposal to restrain government growth is immediately deemed ‘not-serious’ in Washington. The Balanced Budget is deemed ‘not-serious’ in Washington.

Term Limits are deemed ‘not-serious’ in Washington. Capping federal growth by tying it to private sector economic growth is deemed ‘not-serious’ in Washington.

The truth is nothing serious is deemed serious in Washington.

When then-Senator Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling, he said he was doing so because the national debt was at an outrageous 8 trillion dollars…and he clarified for effect, saying that is “trillion with a T.”

Now President Obama has our national debt over 16 trillion dollars and climbing…larger than our entire economy. And he’s not worried about it in the least.

He calls it progress. You remember his campaign slogan, he says it is “Forward.”

I have news for the President – If Washington’s debt is going forward, America’s economy is going backward.
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We have fallen into a trap of believing that the world revolves around Washington, that the economy is based there. If we keep believing that, government will grow so big that it will take us all down with it.

If our end goal is to simply better manage the disaster that is the federal government, count me out, I’m not signing up for that. It’s not a goal worth attaining.

America is not the federal government, Bobby Jindal

But for all of his confidence and assertiveness, the content of Obama’s message was ultimately empty. As Brendan O’Neill has noted there is a theatrical quality to the Culture Wars. Sure, Obama recently announced measures to control guns, but even he admits they are unlikely to be fully effective, perhaps saving just one life (has any other prior policy been justified on the grounds of saving one life?). Rather than conducting a serious debate that attempts to grapple with the complex roots of mass shootings, we get rushed-in measures that amount to a series gestures. Perhaps most worryingly for democracy, Obama – so secure in the rightness of his opinion – has announced that he will use executive orders to get around congress (an act of an ‘imperial presidency’ that the left would have crucified George W Bush for, but are happy to support Obama on).
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It’s remarkable that Obama said nothing of substance about the economy or the country’s mounting debt. We’re in the midst of the weakest postwar recovery, with unemployment as high as when Obama gave his first inaugural speech, but you’d never know from his address yesterday. Nor would his two paragraphs on foreign affairs give you an idea of what America’s strategy is to deal with Syria or al-Qaeda in Mali and Algeria, or any other hotspots in the world.

In his inaugural speech, Obama emphatically made clear that he intends to push a modern liberal agenda in his second term. Perhaps we can now dispense with the longstanding fiction that Democrats are a beleaguered minority up against a powerful conservative elite. The Democrats are another wing of that elite, the one currently ascendant, and their version of liberalism constitutes the conventional wisdom of our era.

The inauguration of illiberal liberalism
See SLJ, tool, above.


An organizing principle stating that a matter ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralized authority capable of addressing that matter effectively. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. The concept is applicable in the fields of government, political science, cybernetics, management, military (Mission Command) and, metaphorically, in the distribution of software module responsibilities in object-oriented programming. In political theory, subsidiarity is sometimes viewed as a principle entailed by the idea of federalism.



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Federal Financial Support for State and Local Governments

Federal assistance provided to states, local governments and Indian tribes can take the form of grants, loans, loan guarantees and tax subsidies. Such assistance is intended to provide these entities with the ability to address national objectives.

northbound US-89 in Salt Lake City
Creative Commons License photo credit: CountyLemonade

One of the most common forms of financial support provided to states and localities is federal grants. Federal grants issued to states and localities cover a broad range of government sponsored and supported services and objectives. Grants may include health services, training for displaced workers, transportation, empowerment zones and enterprise zones for community development.

Grants can take the form of either categorical or block grants. As a result of federal legislation in the 1990s, financial assistance was provided to states and localities in the form of block grants. Existing categorical grants were combined for the specific purpose of providing block grants. Categorical grants provide spending that is targeted to specific purposes. Block grants offer a wider level of discretion to state and local governments for the purposes of identifying problems and then designing programs that will meet the goals of the block grants.

Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy SchneiderSome programs, such as Medicaid, may be classified as direct or mandatory spending. In such cases, an authorizing law provides the actual spending authority for those outlays. Grants provided for infrastructure, community development, education and other purposes are considered to be discretionary and are funded through the appropriations process.

Conditions are typically attached by Congress to spending programs. Furthermore, Congress may attach other conditions in law related to the spending under a program as an attempt to ensure the integrity of the program’s management. In some cases, further conditions may be attached by Congress as a way of achieving a national purpose. One of the most famous instances of this took place when Congress wished to encourage states to increase the legal drinking to 21. As a way of doing so, the receipt of the full allocation of federal highway funds by states was conditioned upon each state adopting age 21 as a legal drinking age.

Congress may also choose to attach financial participation or matching funds requirements to programs. These efforts are often intended to promote better program administration, since state and local government funds are also at risk.

For more information about federal and congressional budgeting, see TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course The President’s Budget, 1-day course Understanding Congressional Budgeting and Appropriations, and 2-day Advanced Federal Budget Process.

Source: Congressional Deskbook: The Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Congress, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider, Sec. 9.40 Presidential Budget Process, and Sec 10.200 Congress and Federalism: Financial Support for State and Local Governments.

For detailed information about the legislative and budget process, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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