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This proposal to decentralize power and resources proves that Mr.
Reagan can be as bold in office as he was on the campaign trail.
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This week, former Nixon writers beamed when the intellectual centerpiece of Ronald Reagans's State of the Union Address turned out to be a proposal ''to make our system of federalism work again.'' In early drafts of Mr.
Reagan's speech, the phrase '' New Federalism'' was used; it was dropped in final drafts lest odious comparisons be made with a previous Administration.
That was intended to result in a kind of ''national localism,'' with national goals set at the national level by the Congress and the President, and with localities making decisions about how this national policy was to be carried out.
Thus, the Feds would say to the locals ''do it your way,'' adding gently but firmly, ''but do it.'' The bird of the New Federalism flapped its right wing and started aloft, but Watergate and Democratic victories, along with conservative distaste for any system that refused to permit states to say ''no,'' shot it down. Reagan's new New Federalism is simpler and more daring than the old New Federalism.
Years from now, this will be seen as '' Reagan's Good Deed,'' much as the daring Shultz-Moynihan-Burns proposal for paying the working poor in an expensive welfare reform is now recalled ruefully - by liberals, who turned it down -as '' Nixon's Good Deed.'' Far-right conservatives, who can add, figure that both the medicaid assumption and the taxing-resource turnover will ultimately mean that more money goes to the poor and sick combined. Nixon's high-initial-cost welfare reform, but they take heart in the knowledge that liberals in Congress will (a) never let Mr.
Reagan take credit for solving the welf are mess and(b) never trust the local people with their n eighbor's care.