Fred Thompson On Federalism

It's funny that I've heard little about federalism from any politician for many years. In fact, I think the last time I heard any politician mention it was sometime back in the early 1980's. Come to think of it it was Ronald Reagan that talked about federalism and how the US government had gotten too big for its britches. I miss those days.

Then comes along a modern day politician to remind us the it is the people and the states that are supposed to be the ones running the show, not the federal government.

The federalist construct of strong states and limited federal government put in place by our Founders was intended to give states the freedom to experiment and innovate. It envisions states as laboratories in competition with each other to develop ideas and programs to benefit their people, to see what works and what does not.

This ingenious means of governing a large and diverse nation prevailed for more than a century. But today our Constitution and the limited, federalist government it established, are considered by many to be quaint or out of touch with the world we live in, to be swept aside by political expediency.

That certainly sounds like what the Democrats are trying to do, sweep aside the work of the founders and all for political gain. It also proves that with all of the bad examples that are out there of large centralized governments and their failures, the Dems haven't learned the lessons of history. They are also proof of Santayana's conjecture that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

Federalism is not an 18th century notion. Or a 19th century notion. It retains its force as a basic principle in the 21st century, because when federalism is ignored, accountability, innovation, and public confidence in government at all levels suffer.

We're already seeing this, at least at the federal level. Congress has the lowest approval rating that I've ever seen, at 14%. (Even Richard Nixon had a higher approval rating the day he left office, and that's saying something.) The people have no faith in Congress, seeing how it is they really don't have our best interests at heart. Instead it's all about them and how they can put the screws to the other party and the citizen be damned. We've also been seeing it here in New Hampshire where, once the Democrats captured both chambers of the state legislature, they've been doing their damnedest to make sure that we will have less and less say in how things are done and seem more than willing to take ever increasing amounts from the taxpayers to make sure it happens. They are willingly following the example set by Congress, and that's a bad thing. They are trying hard to roll back the progress that's been made over the past 20 years or so, taking us closer to their “Big Brother” ideal of government and abandoning the idea that the people know better than they do what is needed and what is not.

Perhaps the clearest example of federal over-involvement in state and local responsibilities is public education. It’s the classic case of how the federal government buys authority over state and local matters with tax-payer money and ends up squandering both the authority and the money while imposing additional burdens on states.

Between 1970 and 2005, federal spending on education increased nearly 150 percent without results to match. The No Child Left Behind law itself increased federal funding by some 26 percent, while creating 50 new educational programs nationally, imposing almost 7 million hours and more than 140 million dollars in compliance time and costs. The classrooms of America, where the learning actually takes place, receive but 61 cents out of every tax-payer dollar appropriated.

The Feds got it wrong, throwing money at a problem that either could have been cured at the local level or didn't exist at all. All any of this money has done is given Washington DC ever more control of our schools, something that experience has shown again and again is better left to local control. No Child Left Behind has done more damage our education system than anything else, changing the focus of education from actual learning to passing a mediocre test that proves only that the teachers have taught their students how to pass the test. It doesn't mean that they kids have actually learned anything useful or important.

There are endless examples showing how the Founding Fathers got it right, and equally endless examples of how the federal government has gotten too big, to slow, to wasteful, and in the end, too stupid to know what it is the people need or want.

Fred's got it right. It's time to take back the power that Congress and the federal bureaucrats have been usurping. It's time to restore the idea of federalism as the Founders intended.

(H/T Instapundit)

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