Yale law professor Heather K. Gerken is among the country’s most prolific and creative federalism scholars. In cooperation with two co-authors (Ari Holtzblatt and James T. Dawson—hereinafter, “Gerken & Co”) she has embarked on a project to develop a theory of “The Political Safeguards of Horizontal Federalism.”
It’s no fun being the skunk at the garden party, but amidst the widespread praise of Paul Ryan’s recently announced anti-poverty reforms it appears some criticism is overdue.
The Washington Post’s Dan Balz is a well-informed observer of (among other things) political polarization among states. One of his earlier pieces is here along with a few comments by yours truly. Yesterday’s Post has another long-front page Balz article on the subject, along with a companion piece on Texas and California –mega-states that have adopted very different social models.
In thinking and reflecting on Michael Greve’s The Upside-Down Constitution over the past year, I still agree with my initial assessment that Greve’s competitive federalism gives us an enormous understanding of so many fiscal and regulatory problems in our current political practice. I think he convincingly shows why many of the states are broke with little hope of recovery, save a federal bailout. Moreover, it also demonstrates why the broken states continue their current course of irresponsible fiscal policy. What else is there for them to do, channel their inner Coolidge? Not bloody likely.
Competitive federalism, Michael Rappaport writes in his thoughtful post, is normatively attractive; and it would be a whole lot healthier with a “Madisonian” Spending Clause—that is, with a constitutional interpretation that limits the power of Congress to tax and spend to the enumerated powers. Under that interpretation, Mike R. says, Social Security and Medicare would be flat-out unconstitutional (and the country would be in much better financial shape). Likewise, the federal transfer programs that wreak havoc on states and competitive federalism (especially Medicaid) would be unconstitutional. Yet Greve’s Upside-Down Constitution “misses the opportunity” to defend that understanding and instead articulates…