The Power Grab: Federalism Today

The growth and immersion of our government is not only felt by the people in our daily lives, but by the government itself.  The states, each and every one of them, have felt the burden of new laws and regulations. Federalism, by rough definition, is a contract between several pre-existing groups or states that are held together by a constitution, providing for a central or federal authority, in which both sovereigns are granted independent powers and responsibilities.  Simply put: the states and the federal government share the power.

In a personal letter, detailing his thoughts on Federalism, Thomas Jefferson argues to:

“Let the national government be entrusted with defence of the nation, and its foreign and  federal relations; the state governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the state generally.  It is by dividing and subdividing these republics from the great national one…that all will be done for the best.”

Recently, new laws and regulations are forcing states to comply with federal mandates that cost billions of dollars while federal agencies have lost court battles for over-stepping their authority within the states.

The EPA has been on the losing side of several court decisions.  Of note though, is the EPA’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) loss in EME Homer City Generation v. EPA, in which the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the rule.  CSAPR was seeking to improve air quality.  As air, and the emissions that go with it, travel not only through a state, but also downwind to other states, it becomes a complex problem.  Congress specifically set up a federalist approach to this problem, in the Clean Air Act, in which the federal government would set the standards for air quality, and the states would figure out the best way to implement and enforce the set standards.  Thus, the EPA was not given authority to set caps on emissions as they see fit and impede a states approved implementation plan; the EPA tried to anyways.  The case shows that CSAPR represents an overreach of the EPA into the authority and laws held by the states.  The cost of CSAPR: $2.7 billion.

The Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is set to take a toll on the states as well.  Obamacare, as the PPACA is commonly referred to, seeks to implement the largest expansion of Medicaid in history, and it will hit the states hard.  Many states, such as Florida and Texas, are planning to opt out or cut Medicaid funding, which is already a demanding part of a state’s budget, in response to the expansion.  Texas estimates that the expansion may cost the state $27 billion in the next decade and Florida estimates the costs to be over $10 billion.  The PPACA is already reaching far into the states.  The current cost of the PPACA’s regulation burdens on states: $7.2 billion.

In the past three years, the government has grown immensely.  There has been an ideological shift from a belief in the people and the states, to the belief in federal government above all.  The rules and laws, noted above, are only a couple of examples of the federal government pushing to expand its powers.  Our country was founded in order to escape a supreme power, let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again.