A government is the body through which a political unit exercises its power, controls policies and implements them. It also directs and controls the actions of its members. There are three main branches that constitute the Federal government of the United States. These are the legislative, judicial and executive. It carries out governmental power and functions. The laws of the country are keenly enforced by the executive organ of the federal government while the judiciary plays the role of interpreting the laws that have been approved by the Congress.
The United States is governed by a democratic form of government. The President is appointed in office through an electoral process in a free and fair polling process. Therefore, a democratically elected President is largely supported by the majority o the populace. The federal government of the United States was formed in the eighteenth century, making it one of the first modern national federations in the world.
This form of government has been debated ever since it was established and its constitution ordained. There are parties that often push for unlimited powers of the federal government while others are of the contrary view that the central government should not be given expanse powers in discharging its duties.
Two Non legislative functions of the Congress in Policy Making Process
Congress has other roles apart from these two non legislative ones that are being discussed in this chapter. It works with the President in discussing public policies before they are implemented by the bureaucrats. It is made up of senators and representatives who are chosen through a direct election (Cummings and Wise 426). Each of them represents a district and serves a term that goes for two years. Seats in the house are shared among the states by the public. It meets in the United States capital, Washington DC.
First it has the power to investigate and supervise the on goings in the executive. The Subpoena Power of the Congress is often charged with the duty of coordinating the various functions allocated to different committees. There have been concerns about how congress oversees the executive actions. Some critics have accused the congress of not doing a good enough job in supervising the other arms of the government. In the Plame Affair, critics claimed that the Supreme law making body was not performing as expected in overseeing this case. The interaction between the Congress and the Executive has also been of a major concern.
For instance, the manner in which the Congress acts as watchdog on the executive decisions is paramount. It has always been the tradition of the Congress to oversee most policy matters endorsed by the executive to ensure that the latter does not go overboard in discharging its mandateThe second non legislative role of the Congress is that it has the power of impeaching the incumbent and also removing other government officers from office, that is; federal judges and other federal officers. The Congress has been influencing the Presidency in a variety of ways. Quite a number of factors account for this variance.
For example, the leadership of the Congress as well as the political influence of the President when he or she is in office plays critical roles in the interaction between the Presidency and the Congress. The impeachment of Andrew Johnson reduced the power of the president compared to that of the congress for lengthy time after.
Five Principle Roles of the President
The President has five main roles that he plays: Head of State, Head of the executive, Commander in Chief, Chief Legislator and Chief Diplomat. The President also has other important duties, but these five are the main ones required expected of him by the Constitution of the United States. The roles performed by the President go beyond mere legislation. Indeed, there are several ceremonial roles played by the President as a Chief Executive Officer of the country.
He is the symbol of nationhood. Through this role the president can identify himself with the public which earns him respect with the people. He stands for the power of United States. Being the Chief Officer in charge of the country, the president is the leader of the executive organ of the government. He is assisted by his staff where he assigns most of the work to the executive and to the independent regulatory bodies that work within the executive section.
The executive branch is considered to be a complex branch to run since the President has to cause the agencies and the bureaucrats implement his decisions and policies. In such times that he needs to have a strong sense of persuasion. As the Chief Executive, he also has the power to grant amnesty to those who may have offended the United States. The President is also a Commander in Chief; he is therefore the leader of the military of United States. He has authority to order when missiles should be launched and for troops to be commissioned. The President delegates his power to the commander of the armed forces. He makes decisions on when the military forces should commence their mission.
However, the president does not have authority to declare war. There is however a constraint on his authority whereby he makes the decision then reports to the congress within a stipulated time. He makes decisions on foreign policy and on how the United States should interact with other countries (Cummings and Wise 428).
He has the advantage of having extra information that congress may not have (for example The State Department, Pentagon, CIA all report to the President). He is the only one allowed to sign treaties after the Congress has approved. He also has the mandate to agree with other countries on executive matters.
He has permission to acknowledge the validity of any other country. He has the power to use military to support his decisions as Chief Diplomat, an indication that sometimes his roles overlap. As Chief Legislator, the President has a duty to sign laws and to pass programs that will benefit his country.
This is a more difficult role as he faces opposition within the congress especially if many of them make up the opposing political party. He uses his staff or liaisons to assist in persuading the congress to pass his programs. If he does not get votes on his bills he may threaten to veto their bills. Despite this, he has the responsibility to consider if the bills are good for the public even if he does not like parts of it. He has a duty to pass the bill with lines that he does not approve because it widely benefits the public. Towards the end of the 20th Century, the Supreme Court denied the president the rights to veto lines that he did not agree with, in which he could veto parts of a bill instead of the whole document. He however has permission to call back congress into a session or to end the sessions if need be. The above roles confirm that the President has a huge responsibility of ensuring the state is stable, united and secure.
He also needs back up from his staff, the Congress and the bureaucrats.
How Bureaucrats Shape Policy
The perspective on ideology has the view that the first stages of a policy making agency are very important in determining its behavior. The application of rules, control or even the use of officially documented authority to steer performance is all under what is referred to as bureaucratic control. It includes such details as budgetary allocation, preparation of reports, performance evaluation as well as regulating results. This is according to Max Weber, a German Sociologist.
In the government sector bureaucrats ensure that the decisions made by the governments are implemented. They communicate with one another, maintain accountability, interpret the law hence the implementation. Congress has delegated an expansive amount of authority to the federal bureaucracy by giving the agencies the power to draft federal regulations and to look into conflicts over these regulations. However, controlling the bureaucracy may be challenging because of a number of reasons. The process of monitoring and supervising everyone or each operation in the bureaucracy cannot be done by the President alone owing to a lot of work involved. Second, the fact that the people who administer the policy often have more knowledge about issues compared to what the President knows, gives the bureaucrats power.
It is sometimes hard to fire bureaucrats even for incompetence and since many federal agencies provide services to a large number of people, they sometimes work together to defend the agencies. Finally in the policy implementation, the agency is the one that works on specifics after the Congress creates and passes a new program. Some presidents view bureaucrats as a hindrance to getting their agenda approved, since they have to do a lot of lobbying and persuading. The manner in which operations of the federal programs should be handled and adhered to is greatly influenced by the federal bureaucracy. The rule making happens in phases.
To begin with, the Congress has to pass the new laws which are then scrutinized and eventually published in an official document. Those interested are allowed comment on the rules during public address or by forwarding their views to the agency. There are 60 days set aside for waiting by the agency after writing down the final regulations. Thereafter, the rules can then be reinforced through an implementation process. It is the duty of the Congress to ascertain that the rules are being implemented.
Theoretically, the due process of implementing the policies that have been endorsed by the Congress lies in the hands of the bureaucrats. Nonetheless, critics have quite often observed that the policymaking process in the federal government is largely influenced by bureaucrats
Theories on the Role of Government in the economy
It is known that consumers and producers make most decisions that build the economy. Nonetheless, the activities of the federal government on the economic performance of US fall into four main categories. The entire rate of economic activities is determined by the federal government so as to ensure stability and growth in the country. In order tom achieve this, the government acts by adjusting the sensitive monetary policies such as the level of spending as well as taxation regimes. In addition, the amount of money in circulation is also regulated. This may improve or reduce growth in the economy.
As a result, two important factors namely the level of employment and pricing mechanisms. Since the 1930s the government has been working on regulating the economy through juggling between the fiscal policy and managing the money supply and controlling the use of credit. The fiscal policy was embraced between the 1960s and 1990s until the government experienced high inflation, unemployment and huge government deficits that caused the president and Congress to lose confidence in the fiscal policy. Hence, the Federal Reserve Board was charged with the responsibility of controlling all policies related to financial matters.
The private sector is regulated by the federal government in two major ways.. In price controls, it focuses on preventing monopolies like electric utilities and agricultural goods from exploiting consumers and gaining unreasonable profits. Consequently, there are quite a number of industries that decided to control prices having complained of unfair price cutting modalities. On the other hand, the antitrust law aims at developing market forces that are formidable enough to avoid a situation whereby it is controlling the market in a direct manner. Further, both the public and private sector have at one time or another implemented this legislation to hinder or hamper what they refer to as total competition. The government has equally regulated the private sector to adhere to some of the most important social objectives like marinating a healthy environment.
However this decision by the government has been challenged over a number of years. This has resulted to the government relaxing the rules in the 1980s. They claimed that such business elements like liberalized enterprise were greatly hampered and as a result, it significantly contributed to poor economic performance due to elevated costs of running businesses.
The government provides direct services on every level ranging from providing the country with adequate territorial defense, giving support to research and development activities, carrying out exploration exercises through its appointed agents like NASA to implementing myriad of programs aimed at improving the working conditions of workers (Cummings and Wise 421). There are several ways through which the government assists small scale enterprises for instance through loans and technical aid. It also provides loans to college going students thereby expanding their chances of acquiring skills that increase chances for them to get employed.
It also encourages home lending where people get mortgage loans making housing affordable. It gives Social Security to individuals who have no means to adequately care for themselves which is financed by a tax on employers and employees. In summing up, the government plays a big role in ensuring that its citizens are economically secure and comfortable. In as much as consumers and producers play an enormous role, the regulatory role of the government ensures that all is in check and that there is equitable distribution of resources.
Cummings, Milton C.
and Wise, David. Democracy under Pressure: An Introduction to the American Political System. New York: Wadsworth Thomson Learning, 2001.