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Examine the Causes and Consequences of the changing balance of power between the federal and state governments since 1980.

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Examine the Causes and Consequences of the changing balance of power between the federal and state governments since 1980 In the years preceding 1980 the balance of power between the federal and state governments had been evolving and changing. This was due to both the changing times in America and the differing philosophies of those men in the famous oval office who had different ideas about how little or large a role the federal government should play. This role has been basically decreasing since 1980 with recent US president's adhering to Nixon's idea of 'new federalism' although the federal government still does have a lot of the power that it gained in the years leading up to 1980 as a result of revered president's such as Franklin Roosevelt increasing this power. Those presidents who took the view that the powers of the federal government should widen mainly did so because decisive federal action was needed at the time to ease America's problems. Since 1980(with the possible exception of September 11th) America hasn't faced such difficulties, which has meant that the Federal government hasn't had to do so much and therefore its powers have decreased. ...read more.


The change in the balance of power since 1980 has also been affected by the attitudes and actions of the executive who have been less inclined to use grant-in aid programmes which has weakened the stranglehold of the federal government on the states. This point is backed up by the fact that in 1995 federal aid accounted for 22.2% of state and local outlays compared to 26.3% in 1980. This money is usually given by the federal government with strings attached and a proviso that the states will agree with a certain area of federal government policy to receive aid. For example when the federal government wanted to raise the national drinking age to 21 they offered all of the states a huge grant for road building and this was money that the states needed. Therefore all of the states decided to tow the federal governments line, enforce the change in the law and receive their grant. This clearly shows how the federal government can use grants to increase their power by making states agree to their proposals and therefore increase the balance of power in favour of the federal government. ...read more.


This can be starkly contrasted to the presidency of Johnson in the 1960s when the balance of power was firmly with the federal government. Johnson was voted in on the promise of achieving a 'Greater Society' and he was able to pass numerous Acts such as Medicaid, which meant that he was carrying out what he had promised the voters. Therefore it can be said that since 1980 US president's have not been able to carry out reforms even if they have a popular mandate to do so. This due to a shift in power towards the states who now have much more control over issues such as healthcare. Even though the recent atrocity in New York has raised question marks over whether or not more power should be in the hands of the states, it is clear that since 1980 the trend has been for states to gain an increase in this power. While this is the case it is evident that a lot of power still resides in the hands of a federal government who try to maintain the USA as a centralised nation and it is clear that in times of crisis, this is what American's want. ...read more.

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