One example can show us quite clearly why cooperative federalism can be beneficial and harmful. This is the example of the No Child Left Behind law promoted by the second President Bush and passed by Congress in 2001.
This law shows that cooperative federalism can be a good thing. Under our federal system, education has always been a matter for the states. In the era of dual federalism, this meant that the national government had no say in the matter. This led to some problems. One of the most serious of these was a hodgepodge of state standards for education, some of which were much less stringent than others. With cooperative federalism and the NCLB, the federal government could step in and require all states to get more serious about providing a high-quality education for their children. This is, presumably, a good thing.
But the law also shows the dangers of cooperative federalism. The major danger is that the federal government comes to have too much power in too many areas. In the area of education, NCLB allowed the federal government to simply order the states to do various things. In this case, it became too micro-managing (in many people’s eyes) and demanded things from the states that were not good for students. When the federal government does this, there is little recourse for the states and we end up with a system where everyone has to participate in the same system even if it is flawed.
Thus, cooperative federalism is good in theory because it allows the federal government to step in when states are not doing what they should. However, it can also be bad because it prevents states from creating their own options when federal policy is flawed.