No Strings Attached!

The U.S. Constitution provides for a separation of powers, not just between the branches of the Federal government, but also between the Federal, State and local governments. In most respects, the States are supposed to retain their sovereignty: they can decide their own laws, set their own punishments for law-breaking, structure their tax codes as they see fit, etc. Except...

A while back (decades?) the U.S. Congress found a way around this separation of powers. Forbidden by the Constitution to "swing a stick", they decided instead to "dangle a carrot". Do most of our congressmen think there should be a national speed limit? Then link federal highway funds to the status of states' speed limit laws. Do they feel too little money is being spent on health-care for the poor? Then appropriate some of the perceived need, but make it available only to those states which appropriate matching funds of their own.

What I'd like to suggest is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting the Federal government from practicing this sort of linkage. Money from a Federal program should be unconditional; the amount spent depending only on the purposes to which it will be applied. Highway money should be based only on the number of miles of various types of roads; Medicaid funds, only on the number of qualifying recipients, and so forth.

If you're as tired of the Congressional carrot as I am, please write your Representative and Senators (and please use snail mail, it gets more attention than email). Tell them, in your own words, that you want an amendment to "cut the strings". Reference this web page if you wish; if an amendment actually does get proposed, this document might induce its authors to make it more faithful to your intentions.

Mark Hagerman