Meanwhile, Back at the States

Monday, February 4, AD 2013




It is an odd thing about the United States that the activities of the Federal government tends to dominate news coverage, while the activities of the States get short shrift.  I say this is odd, because State government still tends to impact the lives of most Americans far more than the Federal government.  This can give us a rather distorted view of what is going on in the country.  Conn Carroll in an editorial in the Washington Examiner, reports on a largely unknown story as far as most of the national media is concerned:


The United States faces a crisis in our political system,” the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne wrote last December, “because the Republican Party is no longer a normal, governing party.”

Dionne is half-right. The United States does face a crisis in our political system. Last week, Pew released a new study showing that trust in the federal government remains near all-time lows. Worse, for the first time ever, Pew found that a majority of Americans believe the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.

And it is not just Republicans who now see the federal government as a threat. A full 55 percent of independents agree with them, up from just 50 percent only two years ago.

But the story is completely different at the state and local level. According to a September 2012 Gallup poll, a full 65 percent of Americans trust their state government — a 14-point jump in confidence from 2009.

Why is Americans’ confidence in state and local government surging while their frustration and fear of the federal government are growing? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Republicans govern at the state level.

Republicans currently occupy the governor’s mansions in 30 states, representing 58 percent of the U.S. population. They control both the governorship and legislature in 25 states, representing 52 percent of all Americans. Democrats enjoy such control of only 14 states, representing just 33 percent of the country.

Go here to read the insightful rest.  This is a very new development.  As a result of the Great Depression the Republican Party lost quite a bit of strength at the state level and has been in rebuilding mode ever since.  After the 1976 elections, the Republican party controlled the governorship and legislature in only one state.  Now, the Republican party has become the dominant party in a majority of the states.  In the fullness of years, the growth of the Republican party at the state level may be the most lasting legacy of the Age of Obama.

4 Responses to Meanwhile, Back at the States

  • 1. With a few exceptions, state governments are in passable fiscal condition. Ditto localities.

    2. Conrad Black recently offered the opinion that the political class had in the last 20 years flubbed every notable issue bar welfare reform.

    a. Welfare reform was road tested by state governments, most notably and successfully Wisconsin’s.

    b. One very notable success in recent decades has been in the control of crime. Eighty-nine percent of the manpower devoted to police and prisons is located in state and local government and federal funding of local police, state police, and state prison systems is sufficiently circumscribed that Congress and the Department of Justice have not been able to leverage it to disrupt the delivery of services in the manner in which they have for primary and secondary schooling.

    c. Lots of people have social contact with school district employees. The corps I am acquainted with offer this assessment of No-Child-Left-Behind: it induces reams of paperwork. Full stop.

  • Interesting article. If you don’t mind me getting hung up on one small point, do you really think that state governments have a greater impact in most of our lives? National defense, tax rates, inflation and interest rates, and ultimately legal interpretations are all in the hands of the federal government, and those are just some of the biggies. Trade policy is another one whose effects are ubiquitous, although not obvious.

  • If the Catholic schools at the elementary and secondary levels would teach about Rerum Novarum and the principle of subsidiarity there might be a lot more citizens out there who understand why the Federal government can’t do what it claims to do effectively and efficiently. Virtually every Catholic I know thinks the Federal government is more able to solve all of our problems.

  • “do you really think that state governments have a greater impact in most of our lives?”

    Yes I do. Property taxes, state income tax, local taxes, sales tax, zoning laws, the schools, laws impacting businesses, laws governing divorce, child support, child custody, adoption, state courts, traffic laws, criminal statutes and the list could go at considerable length. If we have a war with a draft the Federal government looms pretty large, but absent that, even with the radical expansion of the Federal government since the New Deal, I think for most people the State government has a much bigger impact on their day to day lives