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.