Authored by Ray Nothstine

“Preamble-On” is a recurring segment of quotes and thoughts from historic and contemporary American public figures on federalism, the free society, and American political life.

Without doubt, the reason for increasing demands on the federal government is that the states have not discharged their full duties. Some have done better and some worse, but as a whole they have not done all they should. So, demand has grown up for a greater concentration of powers in the federal government. If we will fairly consider it, we must conclude that the remedy would be worse than the disease. What we need is not more federal government but better local government. Yet many people who would agree to this have large responsibility for the lapses of local authority.

— Calvin Coolidge

President Calvin Coolidge gives a speech at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 30, 1925.

Context: In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge offered remarks for Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Coolidge used part of the address to discuss the dual spheres of American government, while focusing some of his attention on the American Civil War. Not unlike our recent interview with former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Coolidge touched on slavery disputes as an example of states falling short of their duty on the question of self-government. Here, Coolidge defends our federalist system of government while urging states and localities to responsibly work out divisive issues, as is intended by the American framers.

Policy-makers in every state need to prepare for a serious economic crisis that could be triggered because of the federal government’s massive debt. What would happen if those federal dollars were reduced? On the current path, it seems inevitable that the federal government won’t live up to its obligations to the states. State policy-makers need to find ways to push back against Washington, D.C., while looking for ways to innovate. Furthermore, state-level leaders need to set priorities to determine what programs are essential and what programs are merely an extension of federal largesse.

— John Hendrickson and Pete Sepp in National Review, July 18, 2023.

Context: The authors point out that federal unfunded liabilities for Social Security and Medicare are at least $80 trillion moving forward. It’s exceedingly likely that the cost of government will rapidly rise for Americans while many entitlement programs decrease. Are states preparing for this or merely exacerbating a monumental problem? It’s a great question to ask and then act on.

Authored by:Ray Nothstine


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