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Last updated: Mon. Jan. 28, 2013 - 09:05 am EDT

EDITORIAL

The feds speak, and we must obey

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Never mind all that stuff about Congress and the states.

Sometimes it feels like Americans are living on the Starship Enterprise, and periodically we can expect Capt. Picard to show up to announce some nearly impossible, highly dangerous task and order us to “make it so.”

Just consider two dramatic mandates with profound implications reported last week:

The military tradition going all the way back to the country's founding will be scrapped and women will be allowed to volunteer for ground combat duty.

School districts – every last one in the country – must now offer students with disabilities the same sports opportunities as other children.

You'd think these enormous changes would have evolved through long and thoughtful discussions aimed at understanding the consequences and forming a consensus. But, no, they arrived fully formed without warning. No debate is desired, thank you very much.

The women-in-combat issue raises serious questions about this country's very safety and the military's obligation to protect it. How can there be combat-ready standards that let enough women pass muster but don't weaken the caliber of soldier required? Shouldn't this have been hashed out in Congress for years so the American people could understand and support it? Instead, we had Defense Secretary Leon Panetta deciding it was time to be fair and equal in the military. “Make it so.”

The athletics-for-the-disabled mandate is a sweeping move that will affect all American schools. Making the changes will be complicated and confusing – which students can we let into existing programs, when do we have to set up alternative programs – and incredibly expensive. Shouldn't this have been tried out here and there in selected school districts or experimented with at the state level? Nope. An obscure law is passed, put on the shelf and ignored until the Washington education bureaucracy decides to unleash it on an unsuspecting public. “Make it so.”

Ah, that silly old federalism concept is such an old-fashioned way of doing things. Running complicated issues through Congress is so inefficient. Starting at the state or local level takes so long. How much faster and more efficient it is for the federal government to just order it done, consequences be dammed. That is the way more and more things get done these days. And far more often than not, we merely shrug and accept it.

In 1789, when George Washington started his first term as president, there were 3.9 million Americans being served by 1,000 civilian federal workers. That worked out to one federal employee for every 3,900 Americans. Doing the same math using today's population figures and federal roster, we get one federal employee for every 147 Americans. That about says it all, doesn't it?


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