Article from For Liberty by Norm Leahy.

Long before the coronavirus prompted some state and local politicians to seek a massive infusion of federal aid to help close their budget gaps, Uncle Sam was funneling huge amounts of money to those same state and local governments for a dizzying array of programs.

All that money came with strings, of course. But increasingly, those strings became something more sinister, giving successive presidents the idea they could use the threat of funding losses to bully states and localities into doing what they wanted. As Cato’s Chis Edwards writes:

…having power over an armada of 1,386 aid-to-state programs makes federal politicians think they are national central planners. Trump, Obama, and other presidents exude self-confidence, but they do not know how to run the affairs of 50 states and 19,000 cities and towns across our huge nation.

One possible way out of this central planning mess? Eliminate the federal programs, and restore both accountability and local control:

This study argues that Congress should repeal all federal aid-to-state programs for many reasons, including that aid comes with costly strings attached that destroy local democracy. Richard Epstein and Mario Loyola noted about aid programs: “When Americans vote in state and local elections, they think they are voting on state and local policies. But often they are just deciding which local officials get to implement the dictates of distant and insulated federal bureaucrats, whom even Congress can’t control.”

Making a change of this magnitude would be extremely difficult. The political class loves playing Santa Claus, and too many Americans enjoy the endless stream of goodies (until the bill comes due).

But we could start small – cuts here and there that add up over time and achieve the necessary change without much notice. Edwards notes the federal government gave the city of Camden, New Jersey “$10,000 for circus training.” Let the cuts – and the accountability – begin there.