When Federalism Works

When Federalism Works

When Federalism Works

When Federalism Works

Excerpt

The politics of federal grants-in-aid to states and localities has been transformed since this study was begun in the summer of 1979. At that time the federal government was consolidating its programs for the health, housing, educational, and other social welfare responsibilities it had assumed in the preceding decade. Federal programs for educating the handicapped and disadvantaged, assisting school desegregation, aiding community development, helping low-income people find and afford suitable housing, and opening up the field of prepaid group medical care had both expanded and become more focused. Washington's role seemed to have been institutionalized within the federal system; the issues that remained were limited to how the programs would proceed.

On these more limited issues, it had become the conventional wisdom that intergovernmental programs were so marked by excessive regulation, conflict, and confusion that policy implementation was disjointed and the programs did as much harm as good. In our initial research proposal we accepted these assertions. Our primary objective was to document how and why this bureaucratic bungling and red tape was almost inevitable. We thought that if people understood better the reasons for federal-local conflict, expectations would be more realistic and issues would be cast in less personal and partisan terms.

As our research progressed, three unanticipated developments dramatically reshaped the study. First, we were surprised by the swiftness with which the election of 1980 affected federal policy in education . . .

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