Opinions on Block Grants, the Dog Whistle of Policy
A block grant is a chunk of money given to a state. The problem with block grants is they can act as a trick to defund programs at a state level.
Below is a short discussion on the problem with block grants, from a liberal perspective that considers the conservative perspective.
The goal here is to help liberals understand the tricks conservatives are using and offer conservatives insight into the liberal perspective. Thus, this goes without saying, this is an opinion on facts.
The Problem With Block Grants
Here are a few points that will illustrate most of what you need to know about the strategy behind block grants:
The general idea is that if states get to fully decide how they use the money for social programs, rather than the Federal Government being part of the marble cake mix, they can “starve” regions with poor people and minorities by defunding that region and funneling more money to regions with upper-class taxpayers.
The result is minorities, and rural citizens get hurt worse, and it results in progressive states having to raise state taxes to make up the difference as funding is reduced over time through a series of state-level tricks.
This is a pathway to defunding social programs at a state level dressed up as “repair” (a Dog Whistle). Consider, they can’t just cut Medicare; it is too popular. They need a trick. Block grants are one of the tricks.
Here one should note that Block Grants can be used to reduce funding indirectly, for example:
The American Health Care Act (the unpassed House GOP bill; AKA TrumpCare 1.0) was going to defund Medicaid expansion by capping and freezing spending based on how many were enrolled in 2018.
This would have “starved” funding over time and forced states to raise taxes or cut Medicaid. It is part of the “starve the beast” strategy.
This isn’t the best example of a block grant, but it illustrates the tactics used in the process. Proponents act as though they are “reforming,” “repairing,” and practicing states’ rights federalism, but, instead, are using clever tricks to cut holes in the safety net. They have been doing this since FDR’s time.
In other words, block grants would be awesome if the intentions behind them were good or if they came with an ethical rule-set that ensured progressive states they wouldn’t be cheated.
However, the intentions are not good as far as anyone can tell. The intentions are to 1. defund regions filled with “others” (like the black belt), and 2. reduce funding over time by cutting funding to states who don’t want to starve specific regions. If one state defunds half its regions, they bring the national average down, and every other state’s funding suffers.
In other words, it is a “get poor quick” scheme dressed up as States’ Rights by a group of right-wing oligarchs, anarchists, and crony capitalists. Or at least that is the bitter liberal view (remember you are reading an opinion based on facts, from a liberal).
The reality is, again, if we include safeguards that stop the above strategies from being played, and if states got the funding they needed to create their programs without tricks, then States’ Rights and block grants are as good as they can sound. States’ Rights is a Democratic Party platform, stolen by social conservatives, and has been since the founding of the party.
Anyway, that is what is going on here.
TIP: Staunch classically liberal social conservatives don’t want block grants, and honestly many other conservatives don’t either. Many just want to cut the whole safety net. They want to undo the “Second Rights” of Wilson’s New Freedom, FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s Great Society, and Obama’s Affordable Care Act. They want this because of their great aversion to big government is great. They have a variety of reasons; those reasons are more of what differ than their policy. With that in mind, the more “left-wing” and “establishment” Republicans typically need to keep favor with a moderate voter base. Thus they say “repair” and “fix.” The idea is that the program is popular, so they have to act as though they like it and say “oh no, trust us, we are going to repair it.” “Repair” is a dog whistle term for “break without getting voted out of office.” But don’t trust me, just ask FDR.FDR Second Bill of Rights Speech Footage.
See the following articles also. Each article below is for or against the idea. I won’t label them as I want readers to understand this issue from all sides: