Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bureauracy Question

Topic: Is the Federal bureaucracy too big to be effective?

I believe that the Federal Bureaucracy has become too large to be effective. It has become so bloated that it seems Congressman don't make their own decisions or decisions based on the needs of their constituents anymore. Instead they give in to lobbyists who woo them with gifts, expensive dinners, and money. There was a study done recently about lobbying that found lobbyists' spending increased dramatically during the recession. "Special interest spending on Capitol Hill broke records in 2009, topping $3.47 billion." This is troubling because it means that lots of businesses are spending money to push their agenda through the government rather than putting it towards helping the struggling economy. "'While companies are slashing jobs, while companies are scaling back other operations, they are in fact boosting their operations when it comes to trying to influence lawmakers,' said Dave Levinthal." The article is at and is called "Lobbyists Enjoy Windfall Despite Pledges to Rein In Special Interest Influence."

The government has taken up responsibility for so many elements of its citizens' lives that it cannot provide all of the services it promises with the money it takes in. Medicare and Medicaid spending is already excessive and nationalizing health care is just adding another logistical and funding burden. The government, and the bureaucracy in particular, has gotten so big that it is off-balance and cannot keep up with all of its responsibilities. It keeps putting money towards new ideas and new programs when the existing ones are struggling and underfunded.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Question from Class

Topic: In the light of the nation's experience over recent decades, has the presidency grown too powerful or too weak?

I believe that the presidency has grown too powerful. It is dangerous for an entire nation to be subject to the whims of one man and his personal agenda or ambitions. The country should be controlled by the opinion of the public, not the opinion of one man. Health care is an example of how a more powerful president would not be good for the nation. President Obama wanted to pass this bill because he had promised to do so while campaigning, and the Democratic party supported him to save his image. Obama and the Democrats wanted to pass health care for their own reasons when the majority of the country, as polls show, doesn't want it passed. It is a bad sign when a bill passes with barely a majority of the Congress and when the general public is against it. The struggle with this bill could have been even worse if the president was more powerful, so to protect against people who would abuse that position and not obey the needs of the nation, the president should not be allowed to become any more powerful. Although great presidents in the past have done great things for the country using a lot of power, it would be wise to risk the government being slower to respond to the needs of the country than to risk giving an ill-meaning president too much power.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Capitol Visit Response

On March 24th, our Government classes visited the Capitol. We got a tour of the capitol building including the rotunda and the original meeting place of the House of Representatives. I particularly enjoyed the architecture and the sculptures.

For lunch and more learning, we visited the Newseum. I watched videos about Elvis, 9/11, how Hollywood portrays the media, a lighter side of the news with Steven Colbert, and how technology and gadgets allow the news to be received more easily and allow the public to become more involved in the news. I also liked reading the cartoons from the exhibit on the art of political commentary that decorated on of the balconies. I didn't get a chance to peruse the bottom few floors, but I hope to go back with my family some day.

Federalist No. 51 Response

In Federalist 51, Madison proposes that the interior structure of the government itself must be responsible for equally dividing the power among the branches because the employment of an exterior body would be inadequate. He said that each branch should check and balance out the other two. This process will, and has succeeded because the branches are familiar with one another, but Madison cautions that each branch needs to have a will of its own and needs to be as limited involved in or dependent upon the others as possible. This allows for the power and appointments of each branch to be drawn from the people, rather than the other branches.

Madison also discusses the danger of relying on the people in government to control the people in government. Politicians are imperfect humans and have flaws which, in the proposed system of checks and balances, will be precariously balanced by the flaws of the other politicians.

There will be a branch that has more responsibility and power to check the others, and that is the legislative branch. Madison solved the problem of inequality by dividing it into two houses.

Madison's system of having the government check itself provides a double security for the rights of the people. The different governments control each other and are controlled by themselves.

In history books, checks and balances are still described as the way branches of our government is kept from becoming too powerful. It seems as though Madison's system is still functioning and effective today.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Essay in Response to "Game Change"

In this era of electronic mass media, television commercials, image makers, and spin control, do voters get a true picture of the candidates and what they stand for? Is image more important than substance? Has the internet changed the nature of American elections? How do campaigns calculate the preference of voters? What role do the issues play in a campaign? What is the role of negative campaigning? What role do the debates play in the elections?

In this era of electronic mass media, television commercials, and high-tech campaigns, presidential candidates are being elected because of their image and amount of publicity more often than because of their stance on issues or ability to lead the country. The internet is a contributing factor in the degradation of the qualities required of a presidential candidate. News of the candidates circulates so quickly that as they enter new states to woo voters, they are met by already-established opinions and prejudices based on their campaigning in other states. Campaigns become about an image and what the news decides to report about a candidate rather than about the candidate himself. The media is the body that controls which excerpts from speeches to publicize or which interviews to comment on. The public is utterly subject to what the media feeds it and is affected by the images of candidates that the media wants it to see rather than the one the candidate is working so hard to present.

Events that are so inconsequential and irrelevant in the grand scheme of a presidential campaign are eaten up by the media and presented in a way that ensures the public adopts the same opinion of a candidate as the media. For example, it really doesn’t matter how much John Edwards pays for a haircut, but the media publicized the four-hundred dollar price-tag of one of his trips to the barber in order to suggest to the public that he is a rich, profligate, and unworthy candidate.

Another unfortunate habit of the media is their tendency to reveal private, sensitive matters regarding candidates’ campaigns to the public. Because of this, candidates must be aware that their operations are becoming increasingly public to the point where an incorrect recipient of a private email can be circulated to news outlets nationwide. A confidential email concerning Hilary Clinton’s plan of conceding the unwinnable Iowa to the other Democratic candidates was publicized, forcing her pour money and resources into a doomed state simply to salvage her image. Candidate’s personal lives, especially including marital issues are also becoming publicized and involved in campaigns. The media seemingly has eyes inside every candidate’s bedroom and chooses to announce very private and irrelevant information. During this past election, voters were bombarded with rumors and suspicions about the stability of the Clinton’s marriage, the disturbingly radical preaching of Obama’s pastor, and the affairs of the Edwards marriage. As shocking and exciting those insights may be, they are not the facts that voters should consider of primary importance and be making decisions on. Voters get a filtered and manipulated picture of the candidate because they get most of their information from the internet or the news, and for both of those outlets, there is some manipulative body controlling what information they receive.

Another factor in the degradation of elections is the rise of negative campaigning. It is discouraging that candidates have resorted to insulting the opposing candidate. Rather than developing and popularizing their own platform, candidates attack their opponents in the hope of focusing negative public and media attention on the opponent to make themselves seem like the lesser of two evil choices. They are essentially saying, “Choose me because I may not be great, but at least I’m not as bad as the other guy.”

The line between acceptable and unacceptable topics has shifted riskily into the realm of the inappropriate for negative campaigning. Race is unacceptable, and affairs and marital problems are off-limits, but implying that a candidate is weak, inexperienced, self-obsessed, or unpatriotic is acceptable, and in fact, normal. McCain ran an anti-Obama commercial saying that Obama was the world’s biggest celebrity and showing the Democratic nominee as even more self-infatuated than Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears. The Obama campaign was insulted by it, and rather than taking the high road, they resorted to negative campaigning as well, using the ad to try to show that McCain was bringing up race when he placed Obama next to pictures of white, female celebrities and to suggest that McCain thought Obama was the affirmative-action nominee and unworthy of his success.

The increased speed at which information can be exchanged today has drastically impacted presidential campaigns and how those campaigns affect the voters. Rather than just allowing more people to be involved in the election or allowing the campaigns to be more efficient and affective, the technological advancements have had negative effects on what information is received by the voters and on how candidates present themselves.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Response to the State of the Union Address

Being not inclined to be interested in or knowledgeable about politics made being engaged throughout the entire State of the Union Address quite a feat. I could only judge the President's speech upon what I think politics should sound like, rather than how it really is. It seemed to me that Mr. Obama talked quite a bit about all of things he has accomplished already during his term, yet I know that it seems to many people that not much has been done to effectively improve their situation. Compared with the tone some news articles take when addressing the recession, Mr. Obama was able to make the current situation sound so good and hopeful which made me suspicious about whether he painting everything to be better than it really is. It also bothered me that the President seemed to be judging progress and a need for reform on stereotypical and dramatized anecdotes. By the end of the address, I was tired of hearing about the imaginary small business owner or farmer in Alabama whose house is being foreclosed and who is trying to raise their kids on their own and who is worried about being laid off. Life is not that simply summarized, and policy shouldn't be formed shouldn't be formed simply because of these "heart-wrenching" stories. The President even specifically stated that he took on health care because of the stories he heard. That seems like a very un-political way to go about forming opinions on very political issues.

I apologize for all the negativity, but praise requires a connection with personal opinions, and I have no opinions or knowledge on many of the matters discussed.

Also, I thought all the applause was absurdly overdone. I do not believe I've ever seen a State of the Union Address before, because I don't think I've ever seen so much clapping for such a simple presentation (as in a single speaker and no music or special effects).

The only question I can think of for the President is "Do you blame yourself for any problem or continuation of an existing problem in present society?" I hope it is not too harsh of a question, but it seemed like Mr. Obama was blaming other administrations and outside forces for problems that might have been created or exascerbated during his term. I don't want to blame him for anything, but I thought it was odd that he seemed to be saying that everything wasn't his fault.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

DBQ Questions

Document A
Brutus' main argument against the ratification of the Constitution and the proposed court system is the unchecked power of the judges and the judiciary branch. He says that it is an amount of power never seen in the judiciary before.

Document B
Hamilton calls the judiciary branch the "least dangerous" because it has the least ability to do harm to or to even annoy the other branches. The judiciary lacks force and will. It can only pass judgments and it even needs help from the executive branch for the enforcement of its judgments.

Document C
No law can be valid if is contradicts the Constitution. This gives complete freedom for laws as long as they are constitutional.

Document D
Hamilton asserts that the judges have the authority to judge the constitutionality of federal laws because they are the ones who hold the Constitution to be fundamental law and it is their job to interpret it.

Document E
Hamilton denies that the Constitution gives power to interpret the Constitution to the Supreme Court because no where in the Constitution does it specifically give that power to any body of government. Hamilton also states that the Constitution should be the standard by which laws are determined even though there isn't a designated body to judge the Constitutionality of the laws.

Document F
The Supreme Court has the power to, in all cases, rule on issues of law and equity, the laws of the United States, and the treaties made within the regulations that Congress sets.

Document G
This document supports Hamilton's argument because it recognizes that the judges are subject to the laws of the land and of the Constitution. Under those restrictions, they do not have many powers and are therefore the least dangerous branch.

Document H
Section 13 gives the court power to call forth anyone in the United States, even people holding office, before the court under a writ of mandamus.

Document I
Thomas Jefferson asserts that the sovereign states that created have the power to nullify any laws that contradict the Constitution.

Document J
This ruling says that the judicial branch has the responsibility to interpret the Constitution because it is thier job to judge what the law is. Because laws created by the legislature must adhere to the principles of the Constitution, the judicial branch must interpret the Constitution in order to determine the validity of the laws created by the legislature. Marshall identifies the "very essence of judicial duty" to be the job of deterimining, on a case by case basis, whether the law or the Constitution should determine the rules of the case.

Document K
Jefferson's reaction to the decision of Marbury vs. Madison was that the judicial branch was created to be equal to the other branches so that there would be checks and balances. They are an equal branch except for their ability to perscribe the rules for the governing of the counrty and the other branches. They are able to mold these rules to fit their fancy for the Constitution is "a mere thing of wax" which can be interpretted and twisted any number of ways. This opinion is drastically different from that of Hamilton's in Document B because Jefferson believes that the judiciary have the power to dictate how the country functions whereas Hamilton believes that it is the least dangerous branch of government without the will or power to affect laws or policies.

Should the Supreme Court Have the power to overturn unconstitutional federal laws?
The Supreme Court should have the power to overturn unconstitutional federal laws. The court is the interpretted of the Constitution in cases broght forth between different levels of government. If it doesn't have the power to exert its Constitutional-interpretting skills upon the creation of laws, no other branch or body of the government will. While it is the court's primary duty to uphold the Constitution, the legislative branch simply acts in what it feels is in the best interests of the country, without the hinderance of consideration for how their actions adhere to the Constitution. A separate body, the judicial branch, must check that the federal laws are in-line with the most basic principles and document of the United States.