The Sequester's Impact On The States Is An Argument For Federalism


The fear mongering over what are, really, rather small reductions in federal spending as a result of the spending sequester have been entertaining. The histrionics from proponents of ever more expansive government budgets betray, I think, their fear that we might reduce spending without any major hiccups in our day-to-day lives.

If you want people to believe that government is central to their lives, you want them to feel pain if the size of government is reduced. If government is reduced, and they don’t feel pain, your argument is decimated. Thus hyperbole and exaggeration about the dire consequences of the sequester from our friends on the left.

Here in North Dakota, the total impact of the sequester spending reductions will be about $33.4 million, the bulk of which is reduction in funding for the state’s military bases and a furlough for civilian defense department officials in the state.

That’s really not much of an impact, but let’s pretend that the sequester spending reductions for North Dakota and other state are as drastic and hurtful as some claim them to be. Isn’t that sort of an argument for federalism?

For decades the federal government has been bribing the states into giving up their sovereignty in exchange for federal tax dollars. In everything from transportation policy to human services policy, federal spending is embedded in state budgets. So when the federal government has financial problems, the states are put at risk.

Isn’t that an excellent argument for de-coupling state budgets, as much as possible, from federal spending? Shouldn’t this sequester “crisis”, even though it’s a bit of a put-on, be a warning for the problems that could arise should we ever (hopefully) get a serious federal austerity program in place?

Earlier this week the North Dakota House passed HCR3038, introduced by Rep. Rick Becker, which initiates a study into the regulatory burdens put on North Dakota through the acceptance of federal funds. That’s a prescient bit of legislation given what’s going on nationally with the sequester.

Our state leaders should be actively looking for ways to make the State of North Dakota more independent of federal spending and federal policy. That’s the sort of governance our founders intended when they created this federalist republic.