A Bit of Blackmail

Back in the Carter era we experienced something called a "gas shortage". One of the results was the national speed limit of 55 mph. Not all states wanted to comply with the limit on all highways, particularly states with miles and miles of straight and flat. But the federal government controls a lot of highway funds, and states that did not comply were threatened with having those funds removed.

Though the federal government was originally conceived to do very little taxing, federal taxes now make up the biggest bite of our tax payments. The money in the state of California is sent to the federal government by the citizens of the state, and the federal government redistributes the funds back out to the states.

The volume of funds controlled by the federal government is so great that the state of California can not currently function without them. Back in the 1970s we saw clearly how financial pressure could encourage states to enforce federal mandates. It is a tactic that, for the federal government, works. So they continue to use it.

The federal government is currently threatening to cut off educational funding to any school that does not comply with affirmative action requirements. While we must ever be willing to reexamine a law for its correctness, whether the law is legal, or "right", is not the issue presented. It goes against federal policy. In the event that legal challenges to the law fail, the government has funds it can withhold in trade for compliance. They believe in Affirmative Action, and so California is put in a vice.

Congressman Riggs is attempting to prevent the withholding of educational funds. If he does not succeed, the State of California will be faced, again, with deciding what to do when the federal government does not agree with our lawmaking. A situation states have faced many times over since the revolution.

I think that it may be in our best interest to begin sending a message to the federal government that it is not "their" money and they do not "give" it to us. It is our money that we "gave" to them. If we pass a law that is unconstitutional, then action could, and should, be taken to invalidate that law. But, if we pass a law that can not be removed from the books, than financial blackmail on the part of the federal government should not be accepted.

Mr. Riggs is certainly doing his job, as a representative of California, trying to legally prevent the federal Department of Education from withholding funds.

But, what I would really like to see though is the State of California, or any state, just say "no".

By Suli Marr - 1997