Friday, March 4, 2016

Government 101

As a public educator in the field of government, social studies and American history I am compelled to write a short explanation of how our government works in relation to the current hysteria in this country over the election of the President. What concerns me most is that the government of this country has moved drastically away from a federal system where the duties of the government are shared between the local, state and federal government, to one run by a massive, uncontrollable bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. that does not serve the people but special interest groups dominated by the military industrial complex, corporate control and political party machines. Now, that concentration of power has led to an election process that focuses not on the issues or what the people want but what two polarized parties want and look to the election of one person to represent their party and carry with him/her to Washington enough support in the Congress and Supreme Court to carry out the desires of the party – not to respect the system of division of power and checks and balances. That is why I think it necessary to write this blog knowing full well that in our society that no longer reads or is interested in learning to protect their freedoms that most of my network will scroll right past this in favor of reading some ridiculous cartoon of persons they don’t like and prey on fear, ignorance and greed to get the masses to follow them and surrender their votes to support the dictates of the fuehrer who will make this country great again.

I am amazed that the people in this country do not understand how the operation of the government was set up in the Constitution in order to prevent this very thing from happening. What I see today is no different that a public that wants an absolute monarch who rules by “divine right” and controls Congress and the judicial system. That is what the Founding Fathers sought freedom from when they wrote the Constitution and why the federal government was set up in such a way to prevent this from happening. I have my own opinions as to how we have reached this point and that is why I wrote “The Peacemaker” but I am only interested in educating about division of power right now.

The federal government works through three different departments with each having declared powers that run one aspect of the government but overlapping powers that serve to check or restrain the powers of another branch to keep one branch from becoming too powerful.

All federal laws are made by the legislative branch – in this case Congress which is a bicameral (two house legislature). The Senate has 100 members with each state having 2 senators regardless of population. The House of Representatives has some 435 members with the number per state determined by population. Senators serve six year terms and their terms are staggered with one-third of the number up for re-election during the federal elections. The representatives serve two year terms and they are up for re-election every year. The only power you have when you vote is your vote for your particular Senator and representative. Supporting the votes for senators and representatives in other states only supports a particular party. In addition, corporate funding of elections has made it impossible for these representatives to really support you because the representatives sell their votes to these funders of their election campaigns.  
Congress controls the purse strings or the budget. Nothing can be done by the President unless Congress provides the money. The Senate has to approve all treaties made by the President and also approve all appointments made to the Supreme Court and Cabinet Departments. All appropriations bills (proposals to spend money) have to originate in the House of Representatives. The President has the power to veto any law passed by Congress. If that happens, the only way to get the law passed is to get a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress to agree on it. That is very difficult to do now because Congress is almost deadlocked in terms of the number of Democrats and Republicans in Congress who no longer vote according to reason but according to party line.

The Executive Department puts all the laws passed by Congress into effect. This is like the way a business operates with the President as the Chief Executive Officer. He has a Cabinet that assists him that is appointed by him – not elected. For instance, when Congress passed the Affordable Care Act the Department of Human Resources was in charge of putting that law into place. The Executive Department is also in charge of foreign policy and diplomatic relations. The State Department assists the President in this regard. The President is commander-in-chief of all the armed forces. In overseeing the military the President has a group of advisors with a representative from each branch of the military called the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Executive Department only carries out the laws passed by Congress in regard to National Security. The President is not supposed to declare war. The last war in this country that was declared by an Act of Congress which is the way this is supposed to work was World War II. All other actions have been by Executive Order. The abuse of this right by all Presidents since Lyndon Johnson has led us into a dark cycle of endless war. George Bush’s Presidential career came to an end over his manipulating Congress to approve the resolution against the wishes of the United Nations to go to war with Iraq. That is why the Democrats won the election in 2008 that put Obama into office. Obama’s election was not some mandate to push through some questionable legislation through Congress that had nothing to do with correcting the disastrous effects of that war in the Middle East. Today, there are many people in the spotlight who came to the forefront as a result of that. The interesting thing is that three of them are Obama, Clinton and Sanders. All three of these people were a part of the Congress that gave approval to release the funds to George Bush to invade Iraq. Without their approval of funds the invasion could not have occurred. I find it interesting that Sanders calls himself a pacifist when his voting record in Congress does not really support that statement. Here is only one example taken from an article that specified Sanders’ voting record on this topic. “In 2001, Sanders did not support the vote in Congress to oppose the war in Afghanistan. Congresswoman Barbara Lee stood alone! This vote was followed by his support for appropriations to support both the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2003 he supported the resolution that gave support to George W. Bush in both Iraq and in the larger war against terrorism, although Sanders has been a critic of the Iraq War.”

The Judicial Branch of the government enforces federal laws. Those are laws made in regard to federal lands and the laws concerning Native Americans who reside on reservations. Probably the most important power of Judicial Branch is the power to

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