William J. Watkins’ comment on states being forced to adopt the .08 blood-alcohol standard for drunken driving (Cultural Revolutions, January) is a narrow objection to federal power. The feds are not threatening to jail the entire population of any state which does not adopt the standard; they are only threatening not to return some of the money we have already paid to the federal government. Many states receive far less than they pay in. Taxes collected in the Midwest pay for projects so that the residents of California and Arizona can pay less for water. And farmers pay less for irrigation so they can raise crops that the government has to buy to keep consumer prices high. Taxes collected in other states pay for the costly light rail that is supposed to make commuting easier for residents of Eastern cities. If your town needs a new highway, a waste-water treatment plant, or more teachers, ask the feds. After all, if the funds were raised locally, some politicians would have to put their jobs on the line and raise taxes. But the politicians in Washington are farther removed and don’t get blamed if they take more local taxes to spend elsewhere. As a country, we look to Washington to collect the taxes and then are surprised when half is kept for administration and strings are put on the rest when it is given back. “Who pays the piper calls the tune.”

        —Stuart L. Faber
Cincinnati, OH

Dr. Watkins Replies:

Mr. Faber makes a good point that federal tax dollars channeled to state programs wreak havoc on the principle of accountability. State officials do not have to raise taxes for highway maintenance; if locals complain about the condition of the roadways, officials can always point to Washington and the myriad strings attached to federal grants. In a federal system where states are truly in charge of local matters, there would be no question as to whom the citizen should complain about high taxes and poor roads.

To the extent that Mr. Faber sees a federal BAG standard as innocuous because Congress must be permitted to call the piper’s tune, I disagree. When operating within its proper sphere of delegated powers. Congress is supreme. However, the Constitution reveals no power delegated over state highway construction and maintenance. Hence, calling the tune in this case is nothing but a usurpation of power.