Grants-in-aid are federal grants which have become the primary way that the federal government circumvents Federalism, and systematically brings the states under the control of the National government.
Following the passage of the sixteenth amendment in the Progressive Era, progressives discovered that they could use the seemingly never ending stream of money to cop-opt the states and push them all toward favoring an ever expansive, big government.
Most inconspicuously, the grants first pioneered by the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson made their impact not in their volume, but in how they were implemented. Wilson was the first to establish close national supervision of how grant money was being used, which had the chilling effect of reducing state policy discretion.
Important early legislation:
- Smith-Lever Act of 1914
- Federal Aid Road Act of 1916
- Smith-Hughes Act of 1917
- Transportation Act of 1920
- Federal Water Power Act of 1920
The first explosion of grants was seen during the New Deal, and after the implementation of the programs of the Great Society, grant in aid programs exploded from just over 130 to just under 550.
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