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CONGRESS NEWS - October 22, 1995

Kim Weissman -


What is the proper role of the federal government? What is the role of the States within the scheme of federalism? Or, more properly, what are "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, [which] are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people"? These are vital questions for the future viability of our republic, yet the reform-minded republicans seem unwilling to meet these issues head-on. The answer the democrats would give, based on past history, is clear: the role of the federal government is to do anything some bureaucrat or politician thinks needs to be done, the role of the States (and the people) is to obey.

Republicans, however, seem unwilling to face the real need for reform. They talk about functions which the federal government now performs, which should be devolved to the States, yet continue to speak in terms of collecting federal taxes and block granting the money back to the States to spend for those functions. And they can't seem to resist the temptation to attach all sorts of strings to that money, attempting to micromanage State performance of those functions.

The past practice may be likened to giving your money to someone else, for them to spend on you as they believe to be in your best interests. Legally, this sort of activity is usually reserved for the mentally incompetent, requiring a guardian to protect them from their own foolishness. The elitists in our government have, indeed, viewed the people as somewhat incompetent children, who need the guiding hand of government to do what is right. The republican block grant "reform" approach simply adds another guardian: the federal government collects our money and gives it to the States to spend on us as the State (with some "helpful" suggestions from the feds thrown in) thinks is in our best interest. And in the process, of course, each middle-man takes a rake-off from the river of money which flows by, so they can spend that money, not on you, but on someone else. And it usually turns out that the someone else is not your spouse, or children, or parents, or anyone you know or ever heard of; that someone else very often is someone that you, if you had the choice, would never think of spending your money on. That someone else often turns out to be an obscene performance artist, a Wall Street investor, an ivory tower egghead who wants to develop better methods to teach your children what an evil country they live in, a major corporation which would like help selling its product overseas, or some lobbyist trying to convince the government to take even more of your money to spend on his own pet project.

The 1994 elections showed that the American people have decided to tell the federal government that we no longer want a federal nanny, but the election did not say that we simply wanted the federal nanny to act as a collection agency for a new State nanny. Isn't it time the American people stood up and said "Enough. I'm competent enough not to need a guardian to tell me how to spend my money. Get back to those functions which have been delegated to you by the Constitution, and as for the rest, just butt out."?

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Kim Weissman

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