The Borg Collective Faces Resistance from Within
The Republican-dominated Utah legislature passed a bill recently that orders state officials to ignore provisions of a federal law that conflict with Utah's education goals or that requires state financing.
The bill, say some critics, is the most explicit legislative challenge to the federal law by a state, and its passage marked the failure of a lengthy lobbying effort against it by the Bush administration....
Utah’s action is not simply grandstanding. The feds have made known that this temerity will cost Utahans between $750 million and a cool $1 billion in federal education funds.
That last bit, about them actually giving up the money, is especially heartening.
Back when the alleged "small government" Republican Revolution began in 1995, following the passage of the so-called Contract With America, one of its central themes was the "New Federalism." The New Federalism, like most small government rhetoric emanating from the GOP establishment, was largely a sham. In practice, it meant an end to "unfunded mandates" and a little more administrative autonomy in spending federal grants-in-aid (except when the neocons wanted to use federal money to impose socially conservative policies on the states, of course). My response at the time was that they should simply stop providing grants-in-aid for purposes not enumerated in Article I, Section 8, cut federal taxes by an equal amount (preferably by raising the personal exemption), and let the states fund their own spending programs. But "Tenth Amendment Movement" people like Ben Nelson of Nebraska certainly weren't having any of that nonsense, and neither were the "devolutionist" GOP Congressmen. (Looking at troglodytes like Tom Delay, I have to wonder if they didn't mean something else by "devolution.")
It's kinda funny, in a sick sort of way. One of the main grievances that pushed Massachusetts into revolution 200-odd years ago was that the Brits insisted on collecting taxes in the colonies and then spending the money to fund colonial government, as a way of reducing their indendence. The colonial governor and judges in Massachusetts would receive their pay from Parliament rather than from the Massachusetts legislature. Likewise, thanks to grants-in-aid, today the average state's agencies gets about a fifth of the money it spends from Washington. Not only does that 20% tie down significantly more money, what with matching funds and strings attached; but many state constitutions actually empower agencies to accept money from the feds and spend it without any appropriation by the state legislature. They have effectively alienated the power of the purse and allowed their own executive agencies to become adminstrative arms of the imperial center.
The patriots of Massachusetts, on the other hand, were smart enough to understand that whoever pays the piper calls the tune. They weren't objecting to "unfunded mandates"; rather, they demanded an end to the funding.