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Issues > American Values > Federalism



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The United States was founded on the idea of federalism, meaning states were sovereign political entities in and of their own rights, and that certain powers were to be held by states while others would be held by the national government. Closely related to the idea of federalism are separation-of-powers and checks-and-balances, all of which have been eroded over the past century.

Powers that were once exclusively the province of states, such as education, regulation of insurance, and charity care for the poor have all been taken over in whole or in part by Washington DC. Both the Executive and Judicial branches infringe on Congress’ power when the write regulations that have the force of law or create powers, programs, or privileges not authorized by legislation.

The erosion of federalism not only damages the carefully crafted system of government established by the constitution, it also harms the public interest. Attempting to impose one-size-fits all solutions across the entire country limits policy innovation by preventing states from serving as “laboratories of democracy.” Centrally-held power also ignores the unique and distinct local factors in each state, and prevents effective accountability by voters.

Likewise the diminishing of the Constitution’s separation-of-powers and checks-and-balances prevents effective accountability, because voters don’t usually have a clearly identified officeholder or public official they can voted for or against when a judge overturns longstanding law or policy, or an opaque bureaucracy issues rules that have the force of law.

The promise and protections of the Tenth Amendment should be restored. Education, environmental protections, regulation of industry, charity for the indigent, policing, and other areas of responsibility not mentioned in the Constitution should begin to be turned over to the states, such as block-granting Medicaid to states and freeing schools from mandates from Washington, DC.

The separation of powers should also be restored, including requiring Congress to approve by vote any regulations issued by federal agencies that carry either financial penalties or prison time. The practice of using executive orders to effectively overturn existing statutes must be ended, such as President Obama’s orders changing the immigration policies established by Congress.


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