Originally created 11/18/96

Another power-grab

President Clinton recently made two proposals to curb teen drinking and drug-taking. One is to make teen-agers pass a drug test before receiving a driver's license and the other urges "zero alcohol tolerance" for teens who drive.

Unfortunately, plans like these are what cause mandates to be shoved down states' throats and contribute to the gargantuan growth of the federal government.

There's nothing wrong with the proposals, as such. Long before Clinton championed them, they were picking up support in state legislatures - and that, in fact, is precisely why he jumped in.

The history of Big Government is to federalize popular ideas that are growing in the grass-roots, thus usurping the authority of states and localities. Compelling all states to obey the same rules, no matter how well-meaning, terminates discussion and experimentation of other options.

If Clinton has his way, federal highway funds will be withheld from states that don't comply with his teen drug and drinking policies. Strictly speaking that's not a mandate, but few states can afford to send their taxpayers' highway money to Washington and not get any of it back.

Moreover, despite the apparent merits of the ideas, there has been no examination of how much the policies will cost. Yet there's no doubt about who will pay for them - state taxpayers.

The problem for people who might oppose the Clinton initiatives is that they can easily be portrayed as soft on teen drinking and drugs. This is nonsense. Actually, what they are against is Big Government extending its overreaching tentacles deeper into the business of states and localities.

If "zero tolerance" and drug tests prove to be a good means of reducing teen-age alcohol and drug abuse, governors and state legislatures won't need Washington strong-arming them into action.

What this nation needs is "zero tolerance" for more federal power-grabs.


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