Growing States, Shrinking the Federal Government

A repetitious GOP theme lands someplace around the words, “the Federal Government is too large”, and that theme is often mixed in with the amorphous phrase, “it’s time to bring Government back to the people”. The subject might be taxes or entitlements or economic growth. The consistent GOP conclusion is that a smaller Federal Government translates directly into a more dynamic, growing country. Hmmm.

Regrettably most of these pronouncements are linked to clear GOP goals of reducing entitlements, altering the tax code to favor the wealthy, and allowing various States to pursue policies at State level which discriminate on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation. These pronouncements are usually so shallow that rich debate never takes place.

Now, one GOP Presidential hopeful, John Kasich, has proposed a variation of that theme which might stimulate serious discussion.

Kasich has proposed that more authority for current Federal government programs be transferred back to States. He points out that he as Ohio Governor could (would) do a far better job compared to Washington in designing and operating a jobs training program. He points out that he (the State of Ohio) must know more about their unemployed than faceless bureaucrats in DC.

Oh, yes, and Kasich feels that it would be less expensive to farm out the work to States. Hmmm.

I think there is a lot to think about in Katich’s statement. A program designed nationally would almost certainly be either too general or too specific when applied at State level. So should voters jump on this proposal?

Maybe… if… The “if” is that who does the work is less important that “what” work is done and “who” qualities to receive the work.

Remember, all Americans are free to move from State to State whenever they please. Many Americans live in one State but work in another.  All Americans are free to travel across the entire country and visit each State as often as they wish. Federal income taxes are collected from everyone and subsequently distributed across all 50 States without concern for which citizens had paid what.

Hmmm. Sounds like the country is relatively borderless.

Kasich’s proposal speaks to efficiency.  To be a fair proposal too, delegated programs should treat every American similarly regardless in which State they reside. For example, Federal funding returned to States in Medicaid, Education, or Training should treat all “like” people in a manner that produces the similar outcomes among all States. Block grant proposals today are thinly veiled proposals to deny coverage to some and lower the overall expense.  Hmmm.

The Federal Government’s task would be to set national standards and collect enough money to fund resulting programs. States would then be tasked to design and run programs to implement. Lastly, the Federal Government would audit State run programs to ensure they (1) met goals, and (2) included a similar cohort as other States and as the Federal Government intended.

Although Kasich did not speak to this, I would assume States could top up Federal grants but could not spend less unless the national goals were achieved.

This is an important concept with the current popularity of “State’s Rights” and “block grants”. Both of these concepts must be prevented from creating conditions where some Americans get help and others do not.

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Explore posts in the same categories: 2106 Presidential election, congress, Democratic Party, john kasich, Politics, Republican Party, states rights

4 Comments on “Growing States, Shrinking the Federal Government”

  1. List of X Says:

    Bolck grants are also thinly veiled proposals by the state officials to direct more money to their pet projects and favorite donors.


    • X, you are hitting upon the conundrum of politics. It appears that almost all government output at Federal, State, and large city levels has a component of who can benefit from the spending… and I don’t mean the recipient of the government service. The only difference between fraud and a “political gift” is the amount of money syphoned off.

  2. jeremiah757 Says:

    It sounds like you have faith in the federal government to maintain entitlements, protecting the poor and the disadvantaged, and you are suspicious of state governments. Is this not merely a reflection of party politics at a point in time? What if a stereotypical Republican administration were in the White House, soaking up all the tax money and spending it on the military? Would not the states’ rights argument then be on the other side?

    The question of state versus federal power is best settled in the abstract, without a focus on any particular policy outcome, because the policy landscape can change with the next election.

    As a practical matter, governors are better equipped to run their states according to the priorities of the voters in those states. If the people of Ohio want more or less generous social programs, they can vote for them. This preserves the states as “laboratories of public policy.” It is much easier to experiment with, say, a schools funding system, at the state level.


    • There are certain activities which only a federal government can effectively perform, for example national defense, emergency relief around natural catastrophes, and those services where nationwide funding is needed (since it would exceed the capability of most States) Such services are things like Social Security, healthcare, and entitlements for the very poor.

      So… if you believe that there should be some basic level of retirement assistance (Social Security), or some basic level of emergency response (FEMA) or that basic healthcare is a right (Affordable Care Act and Medicare/Medicaid) than collecting funds to pay for these programs is done on a national basis and spending is done locally. What I understood Kisich to be saying is there are some of these programs which could be a partnership… criteria and funding set at Federal level and execution (against the Federal criteria) done at the State level. I think that is worth experimenting with to see if it could work.

      Just turning back these programs to States to do as they thought best would create wide variations how different Americans were treated. Unfortunately many Republicans seem to think it is ok for a wealthy person’s child to get superb preventive medical care and a middle class or poor person’s child to wait until they were seriously sick (because they could not afford to see doctors) and then go to the Emergency Room when they are seriously ill…

      Thanks very much for your comments.


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