“Fiscal Cliff” Shows Why Local Government Shouldn’t Be So Dependent On Federal Government


As the much-hyped “fiscal cliff” looms, local governments are worried about what potential cuts and spending policy changes could mean for them.

A group of mayors from some of the nation’s larger cities have rushed to Washington to plead with federal policymakers to avoid the cliff, and cuts to their appropriations. Here in North Dakota, local government leaders and bureaucrats are also worried, hand-wringing over what cuts could mean for their budgets.

And they’re right to be worried. Federal spending is a big, and growing, part of North Dakota’s budget:

Whatever else the “fiscal cliff” might mean for America, can we admit that it exposes the folly of a pervasive federal government the tentacles of which extend into even the most local of functions?

An ugly truth of modern American government is that lower levels of government are eternally punting their problems up to higher levels of government. Whether it’s municipal/county/township governments, or even state governments, “leadership” in local government seems to have become about how well you can fill out the paperwork to get federal money.

The effect this has had, over generations, is the accumulation of huge amounts of spending on local issues at the federal level. The federal government’s willingness to take on very local spending projects has resulted in the creation of a moral hazard whereby spending projects for which local citizens don’t want to pay taxes can be punted up the government ladder to the federal government.

But now that the federal government’s fiscal mess is reaching critical mass, that house of cards is teetering.

Maybe it’s time for local projects to be funded by local tax dollars? If a given city wants a new road, or wants some new bike paths, maybe the taxpayers in that city (or the state government, at the most) should provide those funds rather than the federal government? Because, as the fiscal cliff proves, the federalization of local policy is folly.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • two_amber_lamps

    Case in point….

    “The entire one-block downtown, still deemed unsafe, remains sealed off
    by a chain-link fence. City officials blame the Federal Emergency
    Management Agency, saying the money to demolish skeletons of the old
    buildings is mired in miles of red tape.”


    • WOOF

      Alabama is a moocher state that gets $2 for every $1 the pay to the feds.
      Yet they whine and you shed tears.
      You could be an anti-tenther liberal.

      • two_amber_lamps

        Uh, once again you prove your powers of reading comprehension are lacking.

        The less states depend on the fed, the better off they’ll be. But the statist policies your ideology foster lead inevitably to dependency.

        But that’s the point…. right Lefty?

  • Neiman

    With or without the fiscal cliff being a reality, the people with the money are hoarding it against a possible economic collapse, against growing federal regulations now at more than 18,000 in the past 6 months and Obamacare. They will not hire full time and many, many will not hire at all. Now with the GOP caving in on taxing these same people at higher rates, I do not see how we avoid another great recession and soaring unemployment rates.

    So, haven’t we in reality already fallen off that fiscal cliff?

    • chris

      Since when did Obama sign off on more than 18,000 regulations? I call BS on that one. From what I’ve researched, Obama has passed only a few hundred regulations so far, which actually has been less than the last two republican presidents. In fact Bush Sr had passed a record amount of regulations during his term.

  • HG

    I’m aware of a few local gov’t departments that employ grant writers just to get fed money and it flows pretty regularly. It’s a bad idea.

  • JW -American

    There should be no less than a 51% split with any money to ANY state or local project. If the city doesn’t have the money or the ability to re-pay half (or just doesn’t want to like bike paths) perhaps the project isn’t worth it in the first place.

    Like the tornado ravaged town in 2amber lmps story attached story.. they need ~million dollars to raze those buildings, just knock them down and sue the property owners or their Insurance Co, for the money, if you can’t collect from either. then reclaim the property to the city and re sell the lots after they have been cleared. The balance should be shouldered by the taxpayers of the community.

    It sux, but Tornados generally do suck.

    The problem is the Fed has become the in lieu of Insurance Company of the Country. In ND we have a state ins. fund, but it is under capitalized because we all have Uncle Sammy, he’ll bail us out just like he bailed out NOLA and now NYC, its a big racket to keep the folks beholden to Congress for handouts at the city and State level.

    I saw on TV this morning FEMA wants to start bulldozing houses in NYC before the home owners even get their stuff out. What right do they have to raze private property in the 1st place, then why can they, when NOLA has been trying to take down structures since Katrina 7 years ago?

    • Uh, What?

      “The problem is the Fed has become the in lieu of Insurance Company of the Country”


    • WOOF

      When the property endangers others or lives, take it down.

      • JW -American

        Have you been to NOLA in the last 5 years? I was there in May, certain parts of that City look like a year after Katrina, only with less copper wiring and a whole lot more 6 foot tall weeds around deshambled houses.

        What I don’t understand is how on earth you could live next to an abandoned house, and not adopt it and clean the place up, so yours doesn’t look like a S*&T-hole too.

        I mean pick up the rubble and toss it in though the missing windows if you don’t want to pay the city to haul it away..

        I will never understand the lifestyle of a taker.

  • kelseymcl

    No matter what the problems are, they won’t be solved unless our leaders work together. http://www.nolabels.org

    • Neiman

      Why should they? Look at Hannitized comments just today; never a kind word for anyone that is not a liberal, never anything positive to say about anything that is not in agreement with liberal thought, only anger and hatred and that is what is happening to our country, we are bitterly, hatefully divided against each other and if the GOP bends on taxes, the Democrats claim victory and use it to beat down the GOP, if the GOP stands tough, the Democrats blame them for obstructionism and use it to beat down the GOP.

      So, there is so much hate in both directions, every civil word taken for weakness, it is divide and conquer, win at any costs, even if it pulls down the nation. There is no room for diplomacy, the GOP offered increased revenue, Obama, Pelosi and Reid say it cannot come any other way than higher taxes for the rich, then while the GOP wants some budget cuts and restraint on spending, the Democrats say yes, but years from now.

      Liars, haters, enemies of America and on and on the hatred between the two camps rage out of control.

      • chris

        Actually the gridlock is on the Republican side. Obama has already agreed on spending cuts, but he wants them to be coupled with higher tax rates for the rich, as was suggested by the Simpson-Bowles plan. Any serious analyst has said that there has to be both spending cuts and higher tax rates in order for the debt to go down. The republicans, however, refuse to allow for this give-and-take approach, they simply will not budge. Many of them, in fact signed a pledge to never raise taxes.

        What Obama is insisting on is having a balanced approach, as opposed to the republican “my way or the highway” attitude.

        • Neiman


          Your comments above prove why there is no hope, all lies and anger and hate for the Republicans and worship of the Mahdi.

          • chris

            Don’t let the truth get int the way, right?

            Tell me where I lied. Tell me where I insinuate hate. Tell me where I said I worship the Mahdi.

          • chris

            Your debate skills seem to have taken a dive recently.

  • farad

    i dont see how we ever going to get out debt as every every doller printed there is a debt against it with interest all goverments on the globe as long as paper money is being used ihey will always be in debt