U.S. Government Breakdown


Political Science is something most people don't bother taking in school and as a result there are basic things which are difficult to learn without actually doing some reading. So here is a quick write-up with some basic information about the US government. The first part of this article covers just some quick definitions as covered in a 3rd term of political science. Then I try to explain how State Governors, and state powers in general, are not nearly as powerful as they once were, although they can still be very effective.

Over the past five or six decades the seat of the presidency has grown in power, never more so than as in the two terms of President George W. Bush and now President Obama. Slow but sure more and more power has been taken from the state level and the people as a whole and given to whoever carries the title of President of the United States. This is not a problem unless, of course, someone with such a title decides to ever abuse this extraordinary power which keeps growing with each passing term.

Key Terms

  1. Executive Representation – The belief that people can be represented in the executive branch by elected officials just as they are in the legislative branch.
  2. Jacksonian Democracy – The concept that the government should rule for the benefit of the people and the people should elect many local and state officials.
  3. Spoils System - The theory of winning candidates finding jobs for their supporters.
  4. Long Ballot – A ballot with many offices to be filled.
  5. Neutral Competence – The belief that public services should be provided without political bias.
  6. Executive Leadership – The belief that the chief executives in government should have authority over other executives.
  7. Tax Burden – The total amount of taxes paid as a percentage of income.
  8. Progressive Tax – Taxing people of higher income at a higher rate than those at a lower income.
  9. Regressive Tax – Taking a higher percentage of the income of those making less than those making more.
  10. Proportional Tax – Taxing low and high income individuals at the same rate.1)

State Governors

Governors are not nearly as powerful in their respective states compared to the President of the United States. However, governors can effectively influence policy due to the fact that legislatures almost never have enough time or energy to consider all possible issues. The governor can take advantage of this fact by defining his own priorities by bringing attention to issues to the media, the public and sending proposals to legislature. This works because governors have several bargaining tools such as veto power so their legislative requests are taken seriously and this is especially true of budged requests. Therefore, a governor can propose a legislative program and a budget that have a good chance of passing.

  1. The Chief Legislator represents the state in Washington DC and in intergovernmental organizations. He/she also performs ceremonial functions.
  2. Chief Administrator appoints officials to state agencies, commissions, and advisory boards. Also prepares the state budget and issues executive orders.
  3. Leader of Public Opinion holds interviews, makes public appearances, and communicates with residents. Also tries to build support for the governor and his/her programs.
  4. Military Chief Commander–in–Chief of the state national guard. The guard is often called to assist in natural disasters or to maintain peace during civil unrest.
  5. Chief of Party In two party states the governor is the dominant party leader. In one party states the governor leads only one of the major factions in his/her party. The governor cannot control local or state nominations but can build support for the party.
  6. Crisis Manager Governors have emergency power to help them deal with crisis situations, like Katrina. Therefore, when a crisis occurs, the governor is expected to respond effectively and immediately.2)

U.S. History and Taxes

Since the 1950s state and local government spending and employment have risen faster than the GNP or federal government expenditures. A rise in employment and property values have brought in more revenues for state and local governments while spending has also increased. The main expenditures at the state level are: insurance trust benefits, education, welfare, highways, and aid to local governments. The main expenditures at the local level are: education, health, public safety, utilities, and environmental programs.

The political conflicts related to governmental expenditures is the fact that if there is a major shift in either expenditures or revenue patterns some people will lose and some will win. These conflicts are:

  1. The problem of property taxes and the public schools.
  2. Whether to use a regressive or progressive tax burden.
  3. Attempts to reform state tax structures.
  4. The management of state investments, especially pension funds.

The biggest portion of a person’s property tax bill supports public schools. Therefore schools in rich areas are able to raise more money for their school district. Conversely, districts in poor areas raise less money propagating a downward cycle in which the poor get a lower quality education while the rich get a better education and more school programs.

The conflict over revenue sources and whether to use a progressive, regressive or a proportional tax burden has a lot of people divided. Different states use different tax burdens and it is an issue that is still much in debate. Personally, I think a flat tax would eliminate this quarrel but the issue is much more complicated than what I can understand.

- Maximilian Wilhelm


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