Fine Print

The Contract with America, Devolution, and the Administrative Realities of American Federalism

Donald F. Kettl
Release Date: February 28, 1995

A wealth of public opinion survey data indicates that Americans want “less government,” especially from Washington. Whether in the form of block grants, unfunded mandate restrictions, or privatization, the 104th Congress is considering major policy shifts that could alter the landscape of American federalism

can “devolution” work? What might it actually mean in such areas as welfare reform, health care, and crime policy? The national consensus in favor of “less government” is broad, but how deep does it run? And how, if at all, can devolution be reconciled with the administrative realities of American federalism.

This report from the Brookings Center for Public Management does not weigh into the political battle over the Contract with America. Rather, it explores the administrative implications of devolving power form the federal government to states and localities–identifying both strengths and hurdles to successful implementation of this latest round of “new federalism.”