Federal Subsidies and Block Grants

I’ve written elsewhere about converting Medicaid subsidy transfers to the states to block grants on a declining schedule that eliminates the Medicaid subsidy altogether over a 10 year period.

In an era of excessive Federal government spending, ongoing Federal budget deficits as the normal state of affairs, and the resulting burgeoning Federal debt, it’s time to look at converting all Federal transfers to the states on a declining schedule that eliminates the subsidies altogether over a 10 year period.

It’s time to restore the Federalism to the Federalism concept of our Constitution.

In 2013, the Federal government transferred to the 50 states and an untold number of local governments, just in the form of grants-in-aid, some $450 billion. In 1953, 60 years prior, that number was $0. Between 2008 and 2010, the number rose especially sharply, from $371 (!) billion to a peak of $505 billion.

Total Federal transfer payments were $2.3 trillion in 2013, up from not much more than zero in 1953. Some of that largest recipients of these transfers in 2010 (to mix years of data) were California, getting $63 million; Illinois, getting $19 million; New York, getting $50 million; and Texas, getting $41 million.

This needs to stop.

Federal payments to the states are every bit as addictive for those states as heroin is for a junky; the states will need time to adjust their budgets. Accordingly, I propose taking the 2014 transfer payments to each state as the baseline for that state and beginning in 2015, converting each state’s aggregated collection of transfer payments into a single block grant, with no strings attached—the states need to start learning responsibility and prioritization; the grant should be for the state’s use as it sees fit.

In each year after 2015, the block grant paid to each state should be reduced by 10% of the baseline value so that by the end of 10 years, the transfer payments will be reduced to zero. After that, each state would be required to meet its spending “needs” from its own resources, getting aid from the Federal government—which is to say, for instance, California getting tax money paid by New York citizens, among others—only in an emergency declared and agreed between the state governor and the President.

There would be two outcomes of interest here. The first is that the states would regain their responsibility for their own future, instead of their internal imperatives being dictated by the Federal government through the plethora of strings attached to each of the existing transfers and grants.

The second is that, by eliminating the enormous Federal expenditure, a major step would be taken toward getting Federal spending under control, eliminating the budget deficits that are too routine, and being paying down our outlandish national debt.

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  1. Pingback: Cutting Federal Spending | A Plebe's Site

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