Spoken like a person who has never worked a day in or around state, county or local government. Look, if you think state governments are dysfunctional and ill equipped to enact policy within their borders just wait until you see how metro organizations screw things up.
Yglesias is particularly good here when he notices that the effectiveness of American federalism suffers because while states remain predominant “we don’t really live our lives `at the state level,’” and yet “we don’t have any level of governance that addresses metro area issues.” That’s exactly right, to which I would only add that the centrality of metros to economic life makes this disconnect even more dire. So one can share Matt’s frustration when he says that “there’s not a ton that can be done about this.”
And yet, there is actually quite a bit that a smart, refocused nation can and must do to remedy the absence of middle-tier (metro or regional) government from our federalism.
CDOT currently utilizes a regional planning process and anyone who has witnessed that up close can testify to the parochial, short-sighted and generally un-democratic nature of the process. Large metro areas dominate smaller regions, squeezing them out of state funds and out-muscling them for Federal earmarks. Decisions are made not with broad interests in mind but rather to get as much as possible for ones own region - state systems be damned.
Not to go off on a rant here but this is the kind of idea that sounds great to technocrats who've never worked in any level of government (save for a Congressional internship or two) a day in their life and who's primary professional focus is on broad policy questions. I recommend that these guys spend a couple of months in the trenches as a staffer for a municipal government and then let us know how their great panacea looks after some time served.