Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rhetoric vs. Reality

In this article from, Obama calls for patience as he acknowledges "Change doesn't happen overnight." Like all presidents, it seems that Obama is realizing the job is much more than talk and much more difficult than expected.

Obama promised many things to the American people on his road to the White House. He gained office with a clear mandate from the people and tried to get his programs rolling. However, he met with difficulties to cultivate the change he had promised. His "honeymoon period" seemed much shorter than it may have been for other presidents and many may begin to fear he is not coming through with his promises as quickly as he said five short months ago in November. Obama is facing the cold world of politics from a whole new light, from the top, and may not be doing as well as was expected of his charasmatic self. He has (according to the article) already very politically shifted his stances on many issues and deadlines. It turns out the role of the presidency is not as easy or straightforward as Obama's Campaign for Change (We Can Believe In) Campaign seemed to believe as he swept into the White House. It will definitely be interesting to see how he does in the coming months and see how true to his word he is able to stick.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

more money

It's all about money now-a-days. And according to the government, it's all about giving people money that we don't really have through plans that are being called "imperfect" by the very person signing such plans into law. Yes, there probably ought to be something done about the economy, but we have time. Market forces can drive the economy while the government works out the imperfections so obvious in many of these bills Obama has been so quickly signing into law. This last bill for $410 billion he said himself contained many earmarks that he's been trying to cut back (I believe "curb" was his word). Personally I am weary about all this spending not because of the pork, but because it doesn't seem to be doing anything. I sort of feel like we need to wait and see. We need to see what these bills do before simply passing more spending bills, that are, by nature generally imperfect. Psychologically people have an adverse reaction to spending, so spending in general is often imperfect. Therefore, it ought to be thought about more. The government should strive to make its spending bills as perfect as possible instead of simply signing them into law. Anyway, in my rather illterate way of explaining myself, that's what I think and I'm willing to wait and see what happens. Maybe the governments should do the same.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bureaucracy 2

Essay #1:

The bureaucracy is entrenched in rules and regulations. Many of those rules and regulations are created by the president or Congress in an attempt to control the bureaucracy, but others go against that purpose and end up making it very difficult to reform or control the bureaucracy.

The President of the United States is often said to be one of the most powerful people in the world and, indeed, that may be true. Along with everything else, he has the power to control, or at least attempt to control, many aspects of the federal bureaucracy in one of the world’s most powerful nations. He has most of the power over who gets what jobs in the bureaucracy because, although the senate has to approve most cabinet and bureaucratic appointments, who is appointed is first and foremost the president’s decision. Therefore, most major bureaucratic positions can be effectively “controlled” by the presidency. The president can also control the bureaucracy by issuing executive orders. Such orders can be very influential in determining policies of many bureaucratic agencies. Also, the president can attempt to reorganize the bureaucracy, as was done with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, and he has some say over the budgets of many bureaucratic agencies through his influence at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Congress’ role in controlling the bureaucracy is more of a role of overseeing the bureaucracy. Congress can influence the appointment of agency heads by approving presidential appointments and influencing the president on who to appoint. In essence, Congress “oversees” the appointment process, but does not get to choose the appointees themselves. Since Congress is constitutionally in control of the nation’s purse, its largest role concerning controlling the bureaucracy is adjusting its budget. Congress can further oversee and control the bureaucracy by holding hearings on bureaucratic dealings to ensure they are in accordance with standards and the desires of the nation. Finally, Congress can write or rewrite legislation to clarify the roles of bureaucratic agencies and control the details of their dealings.

The control that Congress and the president have over the bureaucracy helps aid America’s system of checks and balances, but it is by no means absolute or easy. All of the legislation and rules already surrounding the bureaucracy tend to make further action difficult. For instance, there are many rules making it very difficult to fire any members of the bureaucracy. Therefore, if a president appoints someone whom they later disapprove of, it is very difficult to remedy the situation. Reforming the bureaucracy can be even more difficult because reform means there was something wrong in the first place and no one likes to admit being wrong. Therefore, large scale reformation of the bureaucracy as seen in 2002 is very rare and needs wide scale support from all areas of the government. In 2002, the reorganization that created the Department of Homeland Security was facilitated by the crisis of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In general, there may be many avenues for the president and Congress to control the bureaucracy, but that doesn’t mean that such control comes easily.

Bureaucracy 1

Essay #2:

The four basic types of bureaucracy in the federal government today are cabinet departments, government corporations, independent regulatory agencies, and independent executive agencies. The departments, such as the Department of the Interior, are large bureaucratic agencies each headed by a member of the cabinet, such as the Secretary of the Interior or, for the Department of Justice, the attorney general. There are fifteen departments in the bureaucracy today and each heads a large section of the bureaucracy with many agencies within it and governed by it.

Government corporations are very similar to private corporations. They provide a service to the private sector and charge for that service. Government corporations include the United States Postal Service and the Tennessee Valley Authority. The service that those corporations (and all government corporations) provide could be handled by the private sector, but, for one reason or the other, the government has decided to provide instead.
Independent regulatory agencies do just what their name suggests – they regulate. They regulate the activities of most sectors of society and often the actions of many other agencies. Such agencies include the SEC, which oversees Wall Street and the FRB, which regulates the Federal Reserve. The independent regulatory agency the FCC regulates forms of communication such as TV and radio broadcasting. Other agencies, such as the FDA, regulate the food that goes to grocery stores for people to eat. Regulation is an important role of the bureaucracy and, as can be seen by those few examples, independent regulatory agencies affect nearly every aspect of one’s life.

The final type of bureaucracy, independent executive agencies, is basically a catch all for the types of bureaucracy that don’t fit nicely into one of the three types already described. Independent executive agencies are not very numerous and generally cover such areas as research and infrastructure needs. The GSA, NSF, and NASA are all independent executive agencies which are pretty well known. The GSA has been said to be like the government’s landlord for its dealings in the government’s infrastructure and the NSF and NASA are both highly focused on scientific research. Those job descriptions don’t fit any of the other three types of bureaucracy; therefore, such agencies definitely count as independent executive agencies.

Overall, the bureaucracy is a rather large part of the government. The four types of bureaucracy together make up what people consider “bureaucracy” as a whole, but it is not that simple. Departments, government corporations, independent regulatory agencies, and independent executive agencies each have their own tasks to perform and they perform them rather separately, as well as often better than people give them credit.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I'm calling for a look into retrograde motion in politics to make the size of government smaller, not bigger. I don't like the idea that the government is just going to keep expanding until all sectors of life are run by government agencies. I don't like the idea that the government will start not only helping fund college educations, but also auto loans. I don't like the idea that the size of government will increase until it is much larger than the private sector. I don't like the idea that the government is simply going to pump more money into the economy with several stimulus plans until they think something works because simply money won't make the economy recover. People need to believe in the economy again. People need to believe that things are improving. People need the government to decide to do something (or nothing) and be secure in that decision. This passing legislation and then deciding it's not good enough is not helping. It is increasing insecurity, which will never help the economy. I am afraid that the government is simply going to spend more money until Obama's far-reaching goal of cutting the deficit in half in the next four years not only seems unlikely, but is impossible. I am afraid that the government is simply going to pump money into ... - wherever it's going - until they see immediate results, which will take some time. The economy is not going to recover immediately. Economic recovery takes time and yes, it takes some waiting. So, I suppose what I am mainly calling for is patience. The economy has ups and downs. Some downs are worse than others, but most people make it out alive and no matter what everything takes time. Therefore, give it time. Government, take a breath. See what the large plan you just passed does and then take some action when you have an idea. Yes, things might not be great, this could be considered a crisis, but no matter what it's not going to be fixed in a day and this nation need not be so fatalistic.

Monday, February 23, 2009

First Big News of Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is going to the Middle East next week. As a part of her trip, she is going to announce the giving of $900 million dollars to Palestine to help rebuild Gaza. This is an interesting move since the Western World has generally backed Palestine's rival, Israel. However, all authorities say no money will go to the militant group Hamas. In general, the idea of rebuilding Gaza and having US and UN funding help with that goal ought to help the Middle East and Western relations with the region.

I think it is an interesting, but positive move that could help stabalize Gaza and Israel. If Gaza gets settled, then hopefully the turmoil will boil down. Also it is necessary that the region come to be able to function without the militant leaders of Hamas. Giving money to rebuild Gaza that will not go to Hamas ought to help create stability and reduce violence to a degree. Yes, simply rebuilding Gaza will do little to weaken Hamas' role in the area, but doing so without Hamas' input is definitely a step in the right direction, towards peace.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

stimulus plan

The stimulus plan passed. I have to say that 790-ish billion dollars is a lot of money, a lot of money that we don't actually have. Hmm... didn't over spending (by the American people, not the government, granted) get us into this mess in the first place? Well, I don't know whether the plan will do any good or not, but it will be interesting to watch. That's my opinion of politics in general - sometimes it's interesting to watch.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

stimulus plan

If the people have decided they don't want the stimulus plan, why must the government give it to us. Popular support for President Obama's plan is on the decline, which shows that the people are thinking it is not necessarily needed. This nation ought to be more democratic. It ought to listen to the people. If the people say this plan isn't needed, well, maybe it isn't. Maybe there are other ways to help the economy. Maybe the government should listen to the people and come up with a plan that has popular support. I don't really know what that plan would be, but perhaps simply the people believing in the economy again, perhaps simply the people believing that we don't need billions of dollars of federal money for everything to be alright is enough. Now, that's awfully optimistic, perhaps idealistic, but so be it. I believe everything will work out alright no matter what, but I don't believe a stimulus plan without popular support is the best way to get everything to be alright.


President Obama has the best voice to nap to. Last night he was talking about his stimulus plan and fielding questions during his first press conference. I'm sure he did fine. I don't really know. I napped. I listened for about the first five minutes about how important it is that his stimulus plan passes (I don't know if I agree, but that's a subject for another time) and then I ended up falling asleep. He's a politician. He's very good at saying the same thing in different ways to a myriad of questions. Therefore, he's the best to nap to. He can talk on and on about whatever in a rather calm, droning voice. Thank you President Obama for helping me catch up on sleep and get over this cold sooner.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I thought the movie Frost/Nixon was really pretty good. I enjoyed watching it and was rather applicable to the topic we are studying. I don't really know how factual it was, but it seemed rather accurate and was definitely interesting. I enjoyed the setup of the interview with the interview plot line and thought it was a good evening's entertainment.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Repeal the 22nd Amendment?

There are many convincing articles both for and against repealing the 22nd Amendment. Since I will be arguing for the amendment's repeal tomorrow, I appreciated this article by the New York Times. The article "No More Second Term Blues" blames the 22nd Amendment and its two term limit for the malodies many presidents seem to face during their second term. The article makes its claim by explaining the effects that being essentially "fired" in four years has on a second term president. Second term presidents lose power because everyone knows they won't be around for much longer and they lose sway over their part as other members of the party begin to carve out voter bases for the upcoming election. The possibility of being able to run for as many terms as possible means that presidents are always working hard and the people can help choose who is able to lead, not simply the Constitution. Therefore, repealing the twenty-second amendment would prevent "second term blues" and maintain that presidents never lose their sense of responsibility to the nation because their future presidential career is never ended without being caused by some action or decision of their own.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The President

It is interesting how the office of the president works and has evolved over the years. It definitely seems to have become much more intertwined in many more areas of government, yet the word of the president still does not simply get things done, which I think is a good thing. I liked Truman's quote from the Lanahan reading starting on page 199 that "[Eisenhower]'ll say 'Do this! Do that!' And nothing will happen. Poor Ike -- it won't be a bit like the Army. He'll find it very frustrating." I think that is an apt description of the presidency. It is an office with all of this power and influence, but it still does not have the last word. Simply the president saying "Do this!" does not make it done. There is a lot more that goes into the running of this country.

The quote also points out that the position of President of the United States is a rather stressful, frustrating position. It always sort of surprises me how many people want to be the president. I know I would not like such a position because of the stress. Presidents generally start their terms with such lofty goals, but often it seems find that it is much more difficult to get things done than they had hoped, as it can be said was somewhat the case with President Eisenhower. Eisenhower did get quite frustrated as I'm sure have many other presidents at the difficulties and pressures of the job.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Article on Cogress: US Democrats Flex New Power...

The article US Democrats Flex New Power, Pass Pay Equity Bill discusses the fact that now, with the democrats in control of Congress and the White House, many more liberal bills are being passed and made into law. The bill discussed in the article is the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was passed in the Senate last Thursday. The bill, of which a similar version recently passed in the House of Representatives as well, is now being discussed in a conference committee to iron out the differences and prepare it to be sent to President Obama's desk. He is expected to sign the bill into law early in his term. Once the bill is passed, the requirements for discrimination suits would be changed so that "each new discriminatory paycheck triggers a new 180-day statute of limitations" during which people can file lawsuits against employers for pay discrimination. The bill in essence overturns a 2007 Supreme Court Decision that made it tougher to sue for pay discrimination. (The Supreme Court had said the suit must be filed within 180 days of the first offense.)

The article directly relates to how a bill becomes a law and how the strong majority of Democrats in US politics will affect many bills in the coming months and years. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is very similar to one that the Republicans blocked last year. However, now that the Democrats are in control, the bill was approved 61-36 and, according to the article, "Democrats now expect to pass many of the bills previously stalled by Republicans and send them to President Barack Obama to sign into law."Therefore, the article supports the idea that Senate and House of Representatives are very important in American politics because of the power they have over the development of bills into laws. Without the majority of Democrats in the Senate and House as well as the Democratic control of the presidency, the article makes it clear that many bills proposed by the Democrats would not be able to become laws and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act may have been stopped on the Senate floor.

Mock Congress

Well, I am taking this opportunity to resign as speaker of the house. It was an interesting experience, but not one I would ever like to have in any seriousness. I have no intentions of ever entering politics, but did find the mock congress i recently partook in amusing. I think that it was most definitely a rough go at representing the House of Representatives, but did help me to understand bill making to some extent. I wish the discussion could have been more directed and that is largely my fault, so I apologize. I must say it was difficult to accurately represent Congress because we don't really know much about the real world of numbers. As seventeen and eighteen year olds we don't know how much things cost or how much any percent of tax will earn us. Therefore, our numbers were constantly off and constantly being debated instead of generally debating the bills, but nevermind that. It was still an interesting experience and I rather wish we would have had more time to thoroughly discuss the topics and ideas that came up during the mock congress.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I was really glad that so many teachers at school allowed us to watch the live video coverage of President Obama's inauguration. It is an historical event that I'm glad I got to see live if even only on television. I thought that it was interesting how almost depressing Obama's speech was. It was by no means the uplifting, "I'm going to make these next four years great" speech that I think many inaugurations could be. It mentioned several times the crises that America faces and the need to stay strong and have faith in America. I think overall it was a good message, but not what I was expecting.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

The climatic filibuster in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is an interesting example of a sometimes used congressional technique. Jefferson Smith used the technique to the best of his abilities. After doing poorly against the political machines in congress initially, Mr. Smith, with the help of his female counter part, successfully implemented the filibuster to attack the political machine of James Taylor. However, the movie was rather movie-esque. The success of the political machines and the inability of many, such as the Boy Rangers, to combat them seemed exaggerated, but I liked the movie nonetheless. It illustrated the workings of congress in a not entirely inaccurate way and was entertaining at the same time.

Pork 2

According to the article by John Ellwood and Eric Patashnik, pork may not be desirable, but may be necessary to provide incentives for congressmen to make some tough decisions. Those decisions include cutting programs or raising taxes to try and decrease the ever expanding budget deficit. It is wise to limit pork and try to only use it for sensible, helpful programs, but it is not wise and probably not possible to eliminate it entirely. Instead the object of politicians and pork ought to be, as the article states, to "harness the pursuit of self-interest to public ends." In other words, pork may be necessary in some situations as an incentive for congressmen to work towards more important legislation that may be originally unfavorable.

The above paragraph is what the article says and to a certain degree I agree with it. I agree that it would be difficult to convince politicians to give up pork entirely because pork allows them to play the hero in their constituencies. However, I don't think that pork should necessarily be used as a bargaining chip. It may be idealistic, but I would like to think that politicians ought not need an incentive to work for the betterment of the nation instead of for their own self-interest. However, as I said that idea is idealistic, I understand that it will not come to fruition. Politicians will forever be working for their own reelection and the interests of the nation, of reducing the federal deficit, will generally take a back seat to the self-interest of our politicians. Therefore, I once again agree with the article that the best the country can hope for is simply the harnessing of the self-interest of our politicians, possibly, although I dislike the idea, with the wise apportionment of pork.

harness the pursuit of self-interest to public ends

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I think that porking deserves to be a controversial subject. There is no clear right or wrong concerning porking. I am not a big proponent of porking, but I believe that it is most necessary to try to find a balance. Yes, constituencies need money and porking is a rather good way to get that money, but money doesn't grow on trees. Sometimes it is necessary to think of fiscal responsibility rather than the needs of the constituents. Simply handing out money left and right through porking may help some areas, but such an action would also be fiscally irresponsible. Not only must a government take over its constituents, but it most take care of itself and one way to do that is to be fiscally responsible and know when it is necessary to cut back on porking.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

David Price Reading

To be honest I thought David Price's essay was rather boring for the most part. Sure we should be interested in what our representatives do, but to know their daily schedule seems excesive. Yes, politicians go to a lot of meetings and talk a lot and get things done every now and then, but who exactly they're talking to everyday is of little interest to me.

I must say that the essay did gather more of my interest near the end when it began discussing the modern state of political campaigning, etc. The essay becomes more agressive towards the end in its disapproval of attack campainging and cynical politics.

An interesting line is the line in the second to last paragraph, "All of us feel occasionally that "I'd rather vote against this than to have to explain it," but we should worry if we find ourselves taking this way out too often or on matters of genuine consequence." It is funny the apathy not only of many American voters, but also appparently of our politicians.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I can Gerrymander with the best of 'em

I actually rather enjoyed that gerrymandering game. It was annoying that you couldn't see behind the people and i didn't realize I could move them for the longest time, but it was actually a rather entertaining game. Obviously, I bet actual gerrymandering is a lot more complicated, but it is interesting to see how redistricting affects politics.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bennett to Senate

I think Governor Ritter's appointment of Michael Bennett to the US Senate seat recently vacated by Ken Salazar is an interesting choice that will probably pay off in the end. Michael Bennett was the head of the Denver school districts before the appointment and in his three years in the position has made some good steps forward including working to rejuvenate a failing school by closing it and then reopening it one grade at a time better than before. The school system in Denver also did very well financially under Bennett. Overall, not much is known politically about Bennett, but I think he'll be a fine senator. He has established himself in the education sector and it will definitely be interesting to see how he does in other areas. Being practically a no name before this appointment, it is imperative, if Bennett would like to keep his seat for more than the two years left in Salazar's term, that he makes a name for himself and becomes recognized by many Coloradans who, before his appointment, generally knew nothing about him.