It isn't very democratic to advocate more federal spending&power.

If you want a task to be performed by government, it is important to consider what level of government it should be entrusted to.  In most cases it isn't   appropriate  to assign a task to the federal government rather than local or state governments.  It is less democratic to have the federal government handle issues. Special interests have too much influence over out of control federal finances because people fail to think through this issue.

The more people who agree with a  government the  more representative it is of its citizens. People who live in rural Alaska have different needs for government than those who live in New York City or  Dallas.  On some issues those in the southern bible belt   are more likely to agree with each other than with those who live in New England. There will always be political disagreements even in tiny towns, however lower levels of government   are more likely to more closely represent  their populace than the federal government represents the entire US. In rare cases those who have major disagreements with a policy are able worst case to at least more easily move to another town or state than to another country.

Would you expect to have   more input in a group with 2 members, or a group with 25 members? Obviously with 12.5 times as many people you would  feel you had less of a voice.  The average US House of Representatives district is 12.6 times as large as the average state House of representative district. A state House member is in one sense 12.6 times more representative than a US House member.

Most cities are governed by some variant of a   town council, however there isn't convenient data available on their sizes. Lets assume worst case there is just 1 official  you elect for each town. The average state house district is 6.6 times the size of the average town. Huge cities are different (and are sometimes broken up in to districts themselves), this is just an average. The average town council is then at least 6.6 times as representative as the average state house (usually more since there are usually multiple council members). The average town council is at least  83 times as representative as the US House of Representatives.
On average governors are 50 times as representative as the president. Town mayors  are 720 times as representative as governors, and 36,080 times as representative as the President.

For much of this country's history most government spending was at the more representative local level until the first half of the 20th century. This shows the % of total government spending by each level:

The overall growth in the share of federal spending began after the 16th amendment enacting the federal income tax took effect in 1913 and was initially driven by two world warsSpending at the local level didn't actually drop that much, it merely didn't rise as fast as federal spending. This is total spending per person, adjusted for inflation, for each level of government:

Rather than focusing most power and spending at the local level, the US now spends more money the further away you get from the local community. While the federal government spent $11,458 per person last year,   state governments only averaged $5,048 per person. Local governments combined (towns, counties, school districts, etc.) together only spent a little more, $5,157 per capita, which means each type of local government entity spent much less than the states did.

Unfortunately this plays into the hands of special interest groups. A citizen concerned about government is more likely to go to a town committee meeting than to drive to the state capitol. They are even less likely to fly to DC. Corporate lobby groups in contrast prefer the idea of 1 stop shopping in DC. The federal budget is over a hundred times larger than the avereage state budget so lobbyists see a large potential payday for pork and favors they can seek  efficiently  in one place rather than needing to spread their efforts throughout the country A small special interest group may be able to raise funds nationally for 1 fulltime lobbyist, but wouldn't have been able to raise enough funds in any one state to even get a useful part time lobbyist.
A huge budget in the $trillions makes it easier to hide $millions in pork.

Special interest groups prefer federal elections to local&state ones since they can use mass media to  reach voters cost effectively with less need to fund the sort of door to door campaign that volunteers use for their local candidates.  Larger districts currently lead to more spending total, but mass media can lead to a smaller cost per voter for a special interest to be heard.

The rise in federal spending and power happened during the rise of national mass media: radio, television and even  newspaper wire services and chains. The cost of creating national news stories is shared among all the local media outlets that buy it. It was in their interest to use more cheaper national political content and spend less on investigative local content.
Perhaps the rise of the internet can eventually switch the balance of power back to local governments It allows   the rise of amateur local&state web/blogger journalists due to the low cost and effort required to distribute  information since you no longer need a printing press and delivery trucks or a broadcast system.
Citizens groups as well as government over time   directly distribute more of their information and provide it through  local news web sites that collect it in one place to provide each sides views directly unfiltered for those who want it (in addition to any added journalistic coverage of the issues). It cuts down the cost of each side of a campaign distributing its views via the internet.

An additional factor in the rise of federal power was the change to direct election of US Senators starting in 1913. Prior to that state legislators elected the US Senate and were motivated to choose people who would limit federal power to let states retain it. This approach may be more directly democratic, but it led to the less democratic result of helping to centralize power. US House distracts average far fewer voters than the whole state populations that vote for US Senators. The House was mean to be the "Representatives" of the people, and the US Senate the representatives of the states.

Changing the power balance would be more democratic and could allow better policy approaches to evolve.

On many issues no one knows what the "right" policy approach is. What is "right" for one state may not be for anotherWe constantly get new and better consumer products because companies in a free market compete. Many people come up with new ideas and try them out and the ones that succeed spread. If we leave most policies and programs to state and local governments they can compete to discover what works best. Imposing a 1 size fits all approach slows down progress. It is more democratic to let each locale decide what its citizens prefer.

Some people are misled by the concept of "economies of scale" to wish to hand tasks to the federal government. The problem is there are also
"diseconomies of scale". Even private companies that get too large become wasteful, despite competition providing them far more incentive to keep costs under control than governments have. Even states and cities can suffer from bureaucratic bloat, obviously the federal government is worse. If some states feel a task could be done more efficiently for a larger population, groups of states can pool their resources and collaborate "bottom up". Unlike a federal top down approach, this  lets other states disagree and form different teams to compete Federal programs  can become slow moving dinosaurs that are so big they fail without competition.

Larger government entities are under less democratic control in addition to being less representative.

If you were mayor of  a small town with a  $100,000 budget and 1 employee, you could keep a much closer eye on how money  is spent than  if you managed a small city with a $100 million budget with a thousand  employees. You would  need to  leave more decisions to hired staff who might for instance hand favors to their industry friends.  The small town mayor would be more effectively  exercising democratic control over government than the city mayor who  has to delegate  to unelected  staff.    In one sense the government of the small town would be 1000 times more democratically under  control  than the small city. 

That may sound like a large figure, but there is no good way to quantify the level of control. The number of layers  of management a politician needs to delegate to might be an alternative measurement to explore in the future. For the moment the difference in budget sizes serves to illustrate the problem even if it may seem to some to overstate the issue.

The total federal budget is 113.7 times as large as the average state budget. In some senses governors have 113.7  times more democratic control over their government than the president. If you combine that with the concept that  they are also 50 times as representative, multiplying those factors indicates in some ways they might be considered 5697 times more effectively exercising representative democratic control over their governments  than the president.

Data from the Census Bureau for local government spending gives a total per state. In reality it is divided between towns, counties, school districts, etc. Lets pretend best  case the all the money were divided just between the towns. It would still only come to $44 million per town on average. The average state budget is 705 times as large. If you combine that with   mayors being 720 times as representative as governors, they are more than 507,746 as democratically effective at representing you than governors, and 2.9 million times better than the president.

In one sense every member of a legislative body is responsible for the whole government budget they vote on. In another sense they share control over it and you might consider each to be responsible for the fraction of the budget funded by their district.  The average US House district will fund $8,087 million out of the federal budget. The average state House district will fund $283 million of their state budget. The US House member has in a sense 28.5 times as much power. Since there is smaller budget to watch over, in some senses the average state House   is representing you 28.5 times better than the federal House.  If you combine this with the 12.6 times smaller district, in some sense the state Representative is 389 times more democratic than the US Representative.

 The average state House district's share of state budgets is  6.5 times the average town budget so in some senses a  town council member  would be 6.5 times better able to keep a close eye on spending (worst case assuming only 1 member per each town, far more if there were multiple members). If you factor in the smaller population, a town council would be at least 42.6 times under more representative democratic control than a state house. On average a  town council  would be at least 15,286 times more democratic than the US House.

Politicians often seek  votes by promising to tackle the most popular issues, regardless of whether they are appropriate to handle at their level of government. Unfortunately that often leads to more than one level of government tackling the same problem and resources wasted dealing with conflicts and duplication.

Appendix (Spread the Word! and Data sources)

Spread the Word!


Census data on state and local finances, population and federal outlays. Information on the size of state legislatures. Government spending.