How federal grants are depriving us of our money, liberty and trust in government — and what we can do about it.
Just a note about where we write from, and for whom.
We write from the states, and from the middle of them, both in size and geography.
We write for the pragmatists who live in them far from the East Coast law schools that debate theoretical high-minded theories of “cooperative federalism” and “uncooperative federalism” and “polyphonic federalism” and “partisan federalism” and a gazillion other federalisms, including one that is oxymoronically now called the “new nationalism.”
We’re not dismissive of those efforts — well, not completely. Some of the push and pull of the federalism debate must take place in our courtrooms among lawyers and professors who specialize in constitutional issues. We go no further in that sphere than to say that we do agree with some lawyers, especially our friends at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty who set forth a view of “competitive federalism” under which federal and state governments are carefully delineated and limited.
As you will see in Part 1, we also believe in the Constitution — including the Tenth Amendment that so succinctly reasserts the founders’ oft-stated federalist intentions.
What we mostly believe in, however, is the necessity of determining whether and how things work for the people who live far from the nation’s capital and don’t spend undue amounts of time parsing legal decisions, Americans who have to deal with federal overreach rather than ruminate about it. We believe in a federalism that worries less about allegiances to governments than it does to the promise of individual liberty, that is, how people in Wisconsin or Wyoming or West Virginia actually live their lives from one day to the next.
Out here, the fact is, most people say they have lost trust and confidence in our governments — and all you have to do is listen to them to know it’s largely because our national and state bureaucracies over- lap and confuse things in ways never envisioned by the founders. We are being coerced and manipulated through the cynical use of federal grants-in-aid, money transferred by the federal government to state or local governments to fund specific programs.
While we have to leave it to the jurists and cloistered theoreticians to determine when and where that is unconstitutional, we hope the pragmatists in both Washington and Madison, and in other state capitals, listen to the voices of the people. It’s the folks in Milwaukee and Madison and Mosinee, and in thousands of other cities and towns, who have to deal with the loss of their money, independence and self-respect stemming from an intrusive national government that seems increasingly to have no bounds.
We aren’t the first to point out that the federal government is using massive amounts of money through grants-in-aid to coerce states and their residents into compliance. We aren’t even the first to focus on grants-in-aid to state and local governments as the crux of the debilitating, inexorable expansion of national power.
But we are the first, from what we can tell, to write so extensively from the schoolhouses and statehouses (one in particular in a city named after the “Father of the Constitution”) and streets where most of us live our lives.
As you will see in the coming pages, there is widespread agreement out here that things are badly out of balance. A reassertion of true federalism — the devolution of national control and the re-establishment of state interests and individual liberties — is the only solution.