If you ask Republicans why exactly they support the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill that is their last chance to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they’ll struggle to offer a specific reason. These are not, after all, a group of people who know much about health care or feel it necessary to understand what they’re voting on. But after some casting about, they’ll probably settle on the fact that the bill sends authority and money from the federal government down to the states, and doing so is always an unalloyed good.
“As a general rule the states do things better than the federal government does,” says Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.). “Our states — our 50 states — are very flexible, very innovative. Much more so than we are here,” says Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). “It’s about moving power to the states, where money can be spent much more effectively,” says Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). “I like the idea of sending money back to the states and letting each state experiment with what’s best for their citizens,” says Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.).
This is a core part of contemporary Republican philosophy, that whenever possible we should devolve power away from out-of-touch bureaucrats in Washington and send it closer to the people, to those at the state and local level who understand their citizens and can craft the best solutions for them. You’ve probably heard this idea articulated so many times that you don’t even question it. But there are two problems: There’s no evidence it’s true, and Republicans themselves don’t even believe it.
If you listen closely, you’ll notice that Republicans always express this belief that states work better than the federal…