Federalism-the division of powers between the federal and state governments, is vital to our Republic. The only check on federal power is state power. Of course, the Tenth Amendment reserves most powers to the states, but Congress typically ignores that.
The Tenth Amendment should be required reading for all members of Congress-most do not understand the difference between Congress and state legislatures. They seek to address the same problems, but with a national scope. Over the past several decades, we have seen power shift progressively from the states to the federal government. Unlike water, which flows downhill, government power tends to flow uphill-from local to state government and from states to the federal government.
The covid-19 pandemic has renewed the power struggles at all levels of government. Most people, having grown accustomed to federal solutions to all problems, look to the federal government to “fix it,” and blame Pres. Trump for supposed failure in addressing the pandemic.
However, the federal government historically has little or no authorized role in responding to a pandemic. During the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793, which was centered in Philadelphia, federal officials (including Washington and Jefferson) declined to intervene and fled the city, leaving the response to municipal authorities. During the Influenza Pandemic of 1918, Pres. Wilson uttered barely a word about it, again leaving the response to local governments.
Under the current pandemic, the same rules of federalism should apply, leaving the response primarily to state and local governments. But, again, whether its flood, fire, earthquake or pandemic, people have been conditioned to expect a federal solution. The federal government has a role in coordinating state efforts, sharing data and facilitating development of a vaccine. The federal government may also provide financial assistance, since it has no intention or apparent need of balancing its budget, and spending money is about the only thing on which Congress can agree.
However, we’ve witnessed that the federal government is not very good even at spending money, given the widespread fraud which resulted from the federal relief bill.
Federalism is important and must be preserved, for as power shifts to Washington, with it go our individual liberties and rights of self-government.