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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

We Are a Federal Republic, After All

In 1974 the National Maximum Speed Law was passed that prohibited speed limits above 55 mph. In the late 80’s the rules were eased and in the mid-90’s it was repealed. But how was such a law even passed? We are a Federal Republic, after all, and the Constitution grants limited powers to the Federal Government. The 10th Amendment drives home the point, giving the States any powers not given to the Federal Government. What they did was they told the States that failure to comply would result in a withholding of Federal funds for highway repair. In essence, “Do what you want, but we’re taking money away from your citizens and we’ll give it back to your state, but only if you follow our rules. If not, we’ll just keep the money.” So, the speed limits were changed.

This is just one illustration of how I believe the Federal Government has become more pervasive in our lives than what was intended at the founding of our nation. There are differing opinions about the role that government should play in our lives, and I’m not arguing that point. I do believe, however, that the Federal Government should play less of a role and that what role the state governments play should be up to each state and its citizens.

I watched the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina play out on television and wondered why the Federal Government was being blamed for not protecting the citizens of Louisiana rather the state itself. Perhaps it was because over the years, as the Federal Government increased its power in our lives, we, and the states, have become dependent on them. Maybe if the states had been given more independence, the state of Louisiana itself would have been more prepared and better able and willing to protect its own citizens.

I look at categories of Federal Government expenditures and wonder how much of a role they should have in them. Education, Housing and Community Services, and Transportation all jump out at me. States already do spend money themselves on each of these, particularly Education, of course. But I wonder, even so, if the Federal Government is more involved in these and others than is needed. 

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