What Should We Know About Federalism

Federalism is a system of government in which the same territory is controlled by two levels of government. The national government generally deals with issues that effect the country as a whole while local governments deal with their local concerns. Both the national government and the smaller political subdivisions have the power to make laws, the United States has a federal system which includes one national government and a governments for each state. The US Constitution gives the federal government power over all issues that are a national concern and the state governments only deal with issues of domestic concern. While the federal government can enact laws governing the entire country, its powers are enumerated, or limited; it only has the specific powers given to it by the Constitution. The amount of power that the federal government has all depends on how the Constitution is interpreted. The U.S. Supreme Court expanded the powers of the federal government when it interpreted federal powers to include those “necessary and proper” to effect the legislation passed by Congress. Based on the needs of the American people and the reserved powers of the states, the issues of education and the drinking age illustrates the extent to which the Federal Government should be able to influence policy decisions at the state level.

Within the past 35 years the drinking age hasn’t changed, however up until then the drinking age went under extreme changes. In 1982, President Reagan established the Presidential Commission Against Drunk Driving (PCDD). This commission established 39 recommendations to help stop or control what was known as a drunken driving epidemic. The 39 recommendations had a goal of reducing the number of alcohol-related deaths on the nation’s highways. The government then made an ultimatum saying that if states didn’t raise their Minimum Legal Drinking Age to 21 they would lose a certain percentage of federal highway dollars. Two years later, on July 17, 1984, after extensive lobbying from groups such as MADD, President Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, making the national minimum drinking age of 21. By 1987, all 50 states had legislated Legal Age 21. A combination of Federal, State, and local laws shape the role Alcohol plays in America including how we manufacture alcohol, sell alcohol, decide who can drink alcohol alcohol, and the consequences for alcohol related problems. Congress mainly has power to regulate importing and taxing beverages containing alcohol. The primary Federal law that governs the alcohol policy is the 21st amendment, this repealed national prohibition. This amendment also gives individual States control over: whether to allow sale of alcohol in the States, whether to allow importing alcohol into the State, how to distribute alcohol throughout the State and possession of alcohol in the State. Even though the states have pretty flexible powers Congress keeps the power to use financial and tax incentives to promote certain alcohol polices, mainly the minimum legal drinking age. The Federal Uniform Drinking Age Act of 1984 officially sets the drinking age at 21 years of age. Under this act, the Federal government can keep ten percent of Federal funding for highways from States that do not have their minimum drinking age and allow young adults under the age of 21 from buying or publically possessing any alcoholic beverage. Every State abides by this standard today, many State laws vary concerning possession, such as allowing people under 21 to drink with their parents. Today, the consumption of alcoholic beverages under the age of 21 is very common and widespread. Most often, those who are drinking under the legal age don't think about the fact that they are committing a crime. Many believe that by banning young adults from drinking, a common symbol of adulthood, creates a rebellion and large violation and disrespect for the law. One study shows that two in evert 31,000 instances of underage drinking results in arrest. The Prohibition in the 1920s can almost relate to todays keg parties, beer games, pre gaming or speak easies and rum runners. Legal Age 21 has failed at its goal of protecting young adults from the dangers of excessive alcohol use. An alarming statistic of this from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth isa that 96% of the alcohol drunk by 15-20 year-olds is consumed when the drinker is having five or more drinks at a time. Studies also showed that most alcohol consumed by 18-20 year olds is drunk when that person is having an episode of heavy drinking.

Education is ever changing in the United States with new ideas and opinions always coming up, nothing ever stays the same. Since the 1980s, there has always been the idea of serious deficiencies in the public school systems and since then there has been no solutions to those problems. American high school students are extremely far behind students in many Asian and European nations in areas such as math and science. Many trace the problems back to teachers who are being incorrectly prepared to teach in different subjects to different audiences. On the other hand, studies have shown that students in poor areas tend to receive lower quality instruction than their wealthier peers at other schools. The nations public education system must be reformed, however the major question is who should be responsible to go about these improvements? Should the federal government help improve the schools so that this would ensure a high-quality education to all schoolchildren? Or are these reforms best implemented at the state and local levels? Today, most school reforms or responsibilities fall under the state or local governments jurisdiction. The Constitution delegates no direct power over education to the federal government. In the end, local school districts and state boards of education make most decisions about what the students should be learning and how it will be taught. In 1998, the federal government provided 6% of schools' overall funding, compared with 44% from states and 40% from local governments, the remaining 10% comes from private sources. Supporters of greater federal control, such as President Clinton and other Democrats, say the federal government should give schools financial ‘bribes’ to take on strict performance standards. These standards, which would provide a timeline for different classes, would help push all schools and students to reach a high level of achievement. In addition, Congress would also set up a system of making sure that teachers are all accurately certified to teach in several different environments. As always, many want to bring more attention to providing more funding for lower income area schools. On the contrary, Republicans say that federal regulation is both ineffective and unconstitutional. Many believe that federal aid programs have been going on forever and that there is no obvious statistics that show anyone benefiting. America is one of the only western nations to have their school system to rely so much on their state and local governments however this traces back all the way to the colonial period where the country had no centralized government and the communities where schools were located were to small and far to collaborate on any ideas whatsoever.

Currently, the federal government has indirect power over the states along the lines of the minimum drinking age since the US says if the states decide not to abide by their law they will receive less money for their highways. In 1987 South Dakota v Dole was a court case that argued the fact that the national government was upholding money for compliance with the minimum drinking age law in return. It was believed that this was unconstitutional and the national government had no right to ultimately threaten states like that. The States should have all power over the decision to have the minimum drinking age at 18 or 21 or any other age that they decide due to the difference between each state according to statistics. Many states vary in how high a problem alcohol is so each state should be able to personalize the minimum drinking age law without getting penalized.

Brown versus Board of education was a famous case that impacted America greatly. The court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v Ferguson decision of 1896, which allowed state-sponsored segregation, as long as it applied to education. On May 17, 1954, the court’s unanimous decision declared that separate schools was unequal. Racial segregation violated the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment of the US Constitution. This decision helped knock down the racial barrier and move forward with the Civil Rights movement. In the end, the federal government should step in on education policies due to their higher power and authority. The national government would be able to get more done and would also be able to create laws or policies faster and quicker.

In conclusion, the minimum drinking age across America is mainly the work of the Federal government and Congress rather than the state or local governments. On the other hand, Education is mainly a state and local government issue, like it has always been since the early colonial years. Both of these topics are major issues for Americans today and they are both based on the needs of every citizen and the powers of the states. They both show how far and how much power the Federal Government has and how influential they are to policy decisions at the state level.

10 September 2019
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