- - Sunday, February 8, 2015


By James L. Buckley

Encounter Books, $19.99, 120 pages

One thing is abundantly clear in American politics today: Voters dislike Washington. And with good reason, as so many of the challenges facing our country today come out of the inability of most politicians in our nation’s capital to confront those major problems. So what should we do?

In his book, “Saving Congress From Itself: Emancipating the States and Empowering Their People,” James L. Buckley makes a compelling case that the federal government has accumulated too much power and Americans would be better served if much of that power was restored to state and local governments. He contends the growth of this power, left unchecked, is a threat to individual freedom.

His theory is not entirely new. The founders of this great country laid out this premise in the 10th Amendment to the Bill of Rights, saying the “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Mr. Buckley provides a current urgency to the issue as he seeks ways to restore power to the states and — ultimately — to the people.

It is a battle cry many of us have been sounding for years.

Think about it. Instead of sending a dollar out to Washington, D.C. for health care or transportation or education, why not keep it at the state or local level? Instead of a dollar back, the federal government typically adds unnecessary costs to the process returning pennies on that dollar to the state or local government. Where is the value added?

Imagine keeping that dollar back home instead of sending it to Washington:

Why not give states full control over things such as Medicaid so they can serve those in need with programs that are unique to state and local conditions?

How about keeping transportations funds at the state and local level so these governments can maintain our infrastructure without all the costs added by the federal government? It would certainly be a lot easier to fill potholes.

What about a situation where our education resources were spent on quality teachers in the classrooms instead of layers of federal bureaucrats in Washington?

Each of these scenarios offers the opportunity of better services at a lower price: These are things we do not routinely associate with the federal government. It is our chance to truly have more effective, more efficient and more accountable government.

Mr. Buckley goes on to note by restoring these responsibilities to state and local officials, it will actually force members of Congress to focus on the things that are legitimately the role of the federal government — like dealing with the national debt crisis and preserving a strong military.

He notes that under the current broken system, “local and state voters are no longer in control of too many local and state decisions, decisions that are made by Washington agencies that even members of Congress find hard to control.” That’s a problem.

Much of the blame for this lack of control comes from the growth of grants-in-aid programs created by the Congress. As noted in Mr. Buckley’s book, there were 132 such programs in 1960. By 1970, the number had grown to 530. In 2010, the number of grant programs for state and local governments had exploded to more than 1,100 with a cost of $608.4 billion.

Mr. Buckley’s prescription would “liberate state officials from federal regulations that increase the cost and decrease the effectiveness of their work, and enable our citizens to regain control over governmental actions that directly affect them.” What a concept.

In the end, most Americans share the common belief that Washington is broken. Thankfully, most Americans are not.

With new leadership that has the courage to take power away from the big government special interests and restore it to the hardworking people, I have no doubt brighter days are ahead for America.

Scott Walker is the governor of Wisconsin.

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