Categorical grants, mandates, and the Commerce Clause | US government and civics | Khan Academy
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Categorical grants, mandates, and the Commerce Clause | US government and civics | Khan Academy


– [Instructor] In a previous video, we’ve introduced ourselves
to the idea of federalism in the United States. At a high level, you could
view it as a contract between a national government and the states of which it is made, but you could also view it as
a layered form of government where you have your local government and then layered on top of
that your state government and then layered on top of
that your national government, often referred to as
the federal government. And we looked at the
example of a layered cake but have said that over the
course of American history, the layers have gotten
more and more mixed, more like a marbled cake. And it’s been mixed more in
the favor of the national or the federal government, even though certain powers were
historically more associated with the states, as we will
see, there are several levers that the federal government has used in order to extend its
power into the domain of what used to be associated
with primarily the states. So one is the notion
of categorical grants. So these are grants for a specific purpose where the federal government
says, hey, states, we’re gonna give you some money, but you’ve gotta use this money in exactly the way that we’re telling you. Now, to be clear, not all
grants are categorical grants. You have things like block grants where the federal
government can give a grant to a state and say, hey, use this to generally improve the
safety of your citizens. That would still give a
lotta leeway to the states. But in categorical
grants, it’s very specific in terms of how the states
are to use that money, even if historically it was something where the states had the powers. So an example of this would
be the federal program, the Special Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC. And to get a idea of
how prescriptive it is, here is an outline of the
program on the USDA website, a federal government agency. And if we go down here,
you can even see things like income requirements, and they’ll be income
eligibility guidelines. These are set by the federal
government, not by the states. Along those lines, you also have mandates. So a mandate is the federal
government tying funding to one thing based on state
compliance with another thing. For example, the National
Minimum Drinking Age Act, which was passed in 1984,
ties federal highway funds to states raising their
minimum drinking age to 21. And I had direct experience with this act when I was growing up in Louisiana. Louisiana decided not to comply by the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, so the drinking age was 18,
but because they didn’t comply, they weren’t getting as much
federal funding for highways, and the highways weren’t
as good as in other states. So even though the
drinking age is something that might be considered a state power, the federal government
was able to exercise a lot of influence on most states by tying what the
federal government wanted to highway funds. Now, outside of these examples of the federal government
tying state funds to the states doing what the
federal government wants, the federal government has also made use of the U.S. Constitution in
order to broaden its powers. In particular, the Commerce
Clause, Article I, Section 8. You might remember, that’s the part where they say the
Congress shall have power, and then they list a bunch of powers, but one of them, the Commerce Clause, is to regulate Commerce
with foreign Nations, and among the several States,
and with the Indian Tribes. And the key part of the Commerce Clause is among the several States. Over the course of American history, this ability to regulate
interstate commerce, commerce between states, the federal government has used that to justify regulations and laws that focus on issues that
may at first be perceived as a state power but use the argument that it affects interstate
commerce in order to regulate it. And as you can imagine, when you have free-flowing
commerce between states, you have the same currency, you don’t have tariffs between states, many things that you
would traditionally view as the power of the
state, one could argue, would have some influence
on interstate commerce. One notable example of this
would be federal drug laws where a state could decide
to, say, legalize marijuana, but the federal government
can make it pretty difficult by regulating how is that
marijuana transported? Or where does the cash for
that marijuana get deposited? Does it get deposited in a bank that has associations
with the Federal Reserve that needs to transfer that
money across state lines? So the Interstate Commerce
Clause has more influence on state affairs than you
might initially think.

6 Comments

  • Tim Anderson

    My man. I got my BA, I read you have an MS and an MBA. These videos are sick, in a vernacular and good way. Thanks!

  • victor castle

    Sir,
    Thank you for this accurate video. Sadly I have watched this theft of State Power by the Federal government happen during my lifetime pretty much. Along with that came the take over of the school system and the dumbing down of America. With the help of the media it has been accepted and it seems the vast majority of the population has no inkling or doesn't care we are at the state of socialism/communism , broke and about to collapse 🙁
    As predicted , It will fall from within not from foreign powers. Where do these rich thieves think they will live and their children ??

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