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What’s old seems new again

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Federalism is key to America’s future

By Paul Gessing

Without actually debating the issue head on, the concept of federalism is back as a central focus of American political debates.
Federalism, at least as conceived by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, meant that the central government in Washington had a few, strictly-limited powers, but that an overwhelming majority of what was to be done was to be left to the states and people.
The belief that Washington’s powers were few and limited was so important to the Founders that two separate amendments essentially re-stated this.
The 10th amendment clarifies the issue, simply stating “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.”
To say that we have strayed far from this concept over the past 225 years or so would be an understatement.
Federal policies now dictate state actions in education, health care, environmental policy, and a wide variety of other regulatory powers (to name just a few).
None of the aforementioned policy areas were named in the Constitution and, given the strict limits placed on federal activities; it seems worthwhile to at least discuss whether Washington has a role in these policy areas at all.


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