Thursday, April 18, 2013

Jerry Voorhis: The Strange Case of Richard Milhous Nixon 10

Throughout The Strange Case of Richard Milhous Nixon (copyright 1972, 1973), Jerry Voorhis is quite critical of President Richard Nixon's revenue-sharing policies, in which the federal government would share money with the state and local governments so that they could develop their own programs to address domestic problems.  Nixon's policy here probably coincided with a conservative view that problems should be solved by those who are closer to the people, namely, the state and local governments.

What are Voorhis' problems with President Nixon's policy of revenue sharing, or relying on state initiative to redress domestic problems in general?  Here are some of them:

1.  I vaguely recall Voorhis saying that the Nixon Administration did not necessarily allocate money on the basis of states' need.  The state that needs more money should get more than a state that doesn't need as much, but I somewhat recollect that Voorhis argued that President Nixon did not consistently follow this policy.  (But I could be mistaken on this.)

2.  The federal government under President Nixon's policy does not give the states enough money to address their problems adequately.

3.  Voorhis wonders why the state and local governments should be asked to come up with their own domestic programs from scratch, when there are already federal programs that have been developed after a significant amount of deliberation.

4.  States are not necessarily eager to solve their own domestic problems.  For example, state governments that are competing to bring business to their state are reluctant to impose tough environmental regulations.  Moreover, according to Voorhis, local authorities were taking the money that they got from the federal government to construct new city halls, to augment the police force, or to balance the budget.  (Ironically, people have made a similar argument against public-works projects, such as those supported by President Barack Obama.  See here and here.  I wonder what Voorhis would say about that, since he was a strong proponent of the government creating jobs.)  And, on page 312, Voorhis states that, historically-speaking, the national government was the institution that stepped forward to bring about reform: "It was sobering to recall that it was national government, not local ones, that freed the slaves, extended women's rights, wiped out child labor, enacted social security and medicare, started to protect natural resources including the precious soil, brought electricity to rural America, and began to fight pollution of the environment."  I don't entirely agree with Voorhis here, for there were states that did take the initiative to grant women the right to vote, to protect the environment, and to end child labor.  But not all states did so, and thus the federal government needed to intervene to make these reforms national.

5.  According to Voorhis on page 312, certain problems are "national in scope", and thus only the national government can adequately address them.  Voorhis still wants input by those impacted by those problems, however, for he speaks favorably of boards consisting of the poor. 

I wonder how Voorhis would address the conservative argument that the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows the national government to do only what is enumerated in the U.S. Constitution, while reserving all other powers to the states and the people.  I ask this because, often in this book, Voorhis appears to be a stickler when it comes to the U.S. Constitution, especially when he accuses Nixon of disregarding checks-and-balances as he concentrates power into the hands of the Chief Executive.

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