It’s a Federal Problem

Diagram of US Federal Government and American ...

Forget all those confusing lines. Erase them all and put a big red circle around the wonderful folks at the top. They can solve any problem. Image via Wikipedia

Assume you just arrived here from outer-space, having discovered this rapidly-deteriorating bluish marble in a third-world solar system. Now, assume that you focused your understanding of the average American’s political and social views to major news outlets You’d believe the following:

1. Anything of consequence or concern should be consolidated with the federal government. Things “of consequence or concern” are defined as anything worrying or angering a human at any particular time. Each person wants their concerns made paramount, and any differing concerns from other humans are merely a pile of shit. Sorting it all out is the problem of appointed officials who also have their own personal things of consequence or concern (but we’ll only fault them if they ignore our things of consequence or concern).

2. State and lower governments should only be trusted with the management of minimally-used gravel roads and community swimming pools (until someone drowns in the pool or dies in a rollover on the gravel road). In cases of geographic isolation, they also may control a small local jail.

This demonstrates several things:

1. We fail in our ability to understand the law of unintended consequences. Big-picture federal laws always, always create oodles of these.

2. We fail to realize that one-size-fits-all clothing is never fashionable, is uncomfortable for many (most), and makes us look like a big, steaming pile of poo.

3. While the federal government is the only one in this nation with the power to print it’s own money, doing so in vast amounts harms everyone’s economic wellbeing. Yet, we don’t regard this problem as immediate because it is a government’s version of a massive stroke–you feel fine and only notice symptoms when it is too late.

4. We fail to understand that the federal government is the least equipped to address individual/smaller group concerns.

5. We love the fact that state and local governments cannot print money and must generally balance their budget, unless our personal peeves are in danger of being cut or underfunded. Then, go Feds!

6. Nothing satisfies us more than rebranding “our problem” as “the federal government’s problem.” It feels good just to type the words.

Each time something tragic occurs in our local world, we want the federal government to do two things: 1. Throw some cash at the problem (especially if we can catch some in our pockets), and 2. Create a law named after the most compelling victim of the problem. At the rate we are going, every name will be associated with a law. Chris’s Law. Earl’s Law. Clyde’s Law. Beavis’ Law. Balasubramani’s Law. Eventually, we’ll re-catalog federal laws. Rather than “Title 10, Title 17, etc,” we’ll be looking in Title Scott or Title Sarah. Each will be divided into sub parts such as “Helen 85623 § 5138.354” (the new law mandating hitter-friendly little league baseball parks (named for Helen, whose son failed to hit a home run in 4th grade (poor, poor Helen))).

Much of our tendency to over-federalize stems from trust issues.

You see, we don’t trust local governments. Why? We realize they are human. They walk in the Veterans Day Parade. We actually shook their hand once. They meet in accessible courthouses and schools. We know they are flawed because we know them. The federal government is unknown and mysterious. We see them on TV and on the internet. That makes them look cool. It makes them look above Cletus, who just got elected to the school board by the elderly of the county. The federal officials in their fancy suits look like they’re getting things done. We don’t have memories of them being pantsed in the middle school hallway 20 years ago.

Sure, we might malign those feds at the coffee shop when things don’t go our way, but, were we to meet them in person, we’d instantly become respectable members of the upright citizens brigade, calling them sir and ma’am. We’re bad and nationwide, until we’re face-to-face.

We like the federal government because their immediate screwups don’t hurt as bad–because the consequences are shared with millions and millions. If the school district in Tuscumbia, MO suffers a judgment for $1M for negligence, the 50 taxpayers in the district feel it immediately and severely. They lack the ability to print $1M in cash and write it off as a spot of inflation. Little do we notice that small, federal spot beginning to fester, growing cancerous, ready to metastasize at any moment.

Oh, and remember those who suffer the unintended consequences of our hyper-federalization of laws? Well, we didn’t like them anyway.

So, congratulations, friend from outer space. You’ve seen us for who we are, and you see the consequences of our actions. You’re lucky. You sit upon the junk we left on the moon, looking down and witnessing the big federal nightmare we’ve created–satisfying it’s appetite on all of us.