The United States Congress faces two major problems according to former Senator James Buckley. The first is its seeming inability to deal with long term problems of any consequence. The second is runaway spending that, he says, threatens to bankrupt us all. Both issues have been widely discussed and many politicians have vowed to deal with them.
But Senator Buckley says most people don’t realize one of the prime causes of both problems is a category of federal spending called “Grants In Aid” programs. He says there are more than 1,100 such programs. They consume one sixth of the federal budget. They have grown from $24,1 billion in 1970 to an estimated $640.8 billion in 2015, he says. He points out that they are a popular way for our elected representatives and senators to ensure their reelection by grateful constituents back home.
The irony, Buckley says, is that the money the states and local governments receive is derived from the federal taxes their residents pay and the grants come with detailed federal directives on how local officials can spend that money. To put it another way, he says, Congress is bribing the states to adopt Congress’s approach to problems that the Constitution said are the state’s exclusive responsibility.
As we approach another election year this forum promises to be a thoughtful and provocative discussion.