The popular press is currently filled with articles in which words like "block grant," "entitlement," "federalism," and "devolution" figure prominently. The general plot line of these stories goes something like this: For many years the federal government has created more and more entitlements programs. Some of these programs are "cooperative" arrangements with the states, e.g., AFDC and Medicaid, but they are not very cooperative. Indeed, the general image of an entitlement program seems to be of a federal statute that imposes detailed and rigid standards of beneficiary eligibility in return for a federal contribution to state financing of transfers of cash, goods, or services. In the popular image, such programs empower beneficiaries and the central government at the expense of the states. Indeed, in more elaborate forms of this narrative the states are seen as powerless to change policies in programs that they substantially fund, not because the federal government is particularly good at enforcing programmatic requirements, but because the entitled beneficiaries can enforce full compliance in federal courts.
Mashaw, Jerry L. and Calsyn, Dylan S.
"Block Grants, Entitlements, and Federalism: A Conceptual Map of Contested Terrain,"
Yale Law & Policy Review: Vol. 14
, Article 11.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/ylpr/vol14/iss2/11