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philosopher's avatar

Do you think it is important to maintain a system of checks and balance in America?

Asked by philosopher (9152points) February 12th, 2010

I do not think Congress represents the American people. I think they represent the Lobbyist and the elite. I think the Middle Class has no representation.
The Republicans and Democrats represent extreme Ideologies. The Republicans are to far to the right and the Democrats are to far to the left. No one seems to be moderate or have any common sense. No one does what is best for the American working people.
Isn’t that why we were suppose to have checks and balances? I thought the checks and balance were suppose to prevent the extremes from taking over.

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22 Answers

Vincentt's avatar

Haha, democrates too far to the left xD

Mitchell_Lewis's avatar

There’s a big part of the check and balance system that’s missing here: the people. There are so few citizens who care enough about what’s happening to not only voice their opinions, but act on them. People can complain about the Obama administration all they want to, nothing’s going to change unless they do more than sit in front of the TV and whine. People complained about Bush’s invasion into Iraq too, but did it in front of their TVs. Now, that’s not to say no one is doing anything, or has done anything about our politics…but those people are outliers. The general populace isn’t. American citizens need to remember that being politically active does not equal going to vote every year, it’s so much more than that. Congress, The House of Representatives, and the President will start doing more for the American people when we tell them (not ask them!) what we want them to do. That’s the purpose of government.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

“Checks and balances” as designed by John Adams (primarily) in his drafting of the Massachusetts and then US Constitutions work by making the Legislature (or Congress), the Executive (Governor or President) and Judicial (State or US Supreme Court) ‘check and balance’ each other. His system had nothing to do with parties; in fact, he was strongly opposed to party politics.

The “checking” means that Congress, for example, is supposed to make the laws (the President can’t) which the President enforces with his executive power and the President has the power to approve or disapprove (veto) bills that the Congress wants to make law. (Congress has the further ability to override the President’s veto, if enough of them feel strongly enough about their intended bill.) The Supreme Court checks both of those branches by weighing their actions and intentions against the meaning of the US Constitution, and the President is able to influence the Court by nominating Justices as they retire or die. The Congress, again, has some “checking” power there, by their ability to hold up or disapprove nominees to the Court.

It’s really quite a good system for ensuring that no one obtains too much power without a ceding of that power from one or more of the other branches. None of these branches has the power to shut down the other, for example, as often happens in other countries.

The one thing that does work in our government is “gridlock”: when the parties agree and each of the above-mentioned branches agrees, then it’s time to hold onto your hat and grab your gun. The fact that the government doesn’t move far or fast is a good thing.

benjaminlevi's avatar

Yes, it would sure be nice if we actually had some checks and balances.

janbb's avatar

Yes, it would have been.

TexasDude's avatar

Checks and balances are supposed to keep any one branch of the Federal Government in check, but the main issue is something that most people and politicians have forgotten: that is the fact that our leaders are supposed to be subservient to us, not the other way around. @Mitchell_Lewis had it right when he said that the people are missing from the equation.

Qingu's avatar

@philosopher, you said, “The Republicans and Democrats represent extreme Ideologies. The Republicans are to far to the right and the Democrats are to far to the left. No one seems to be moderate or have any common sense.”

Can you explain what you mean here? On what issues do you think the Democrats are “too far to the left”? And why?

And what exactly do you mean by “moderate”? Do you mean simply averaging the left-and-right-extremes? (So if Republicans want to give rich people huge tax cuts and Democrats want to invest in health care reform, a “moderate” would do half of one and half of the other? Or what?)

janbb's avatar

You seem to be talking about two different things. Checks and balances were designed to keep one branch of the government from usurping too much power. In your details, you seem to be saying that you want to limit the power of the two parties in Congress so that more moderate solutions prevail (as @Qinqu says, whaatever that means.) Which question do you want to discuss?

Qingu's avatar

@Mitchell_Lewis, I’m not sure what sort of action you’re advocating besides voting and campaigning. I mean, surely you realize that America is not a direct democracy, we’re a representative democracy, right?

And I would agree with you if the “activists” you’re idealizing had the slightest inkling of what they were talking about. Unfortunately, the main people telling politicians what to do seem to be complete fucking morons.

Democracy only works well when the populace is informed enough to, for example, realize that “we want tax cuts” and “we want less deficit” are mutually contradictory sentiments.

Qingu's avatar

@CyanoticWasp, the problem is that the Senate is currently dysfunctional as an institution. Requiring 60 votes to get anything done means nothing will ever get done. The filibuster rules need to be reverted to what they historically were. A filibuster should be functionally different than just “voting no.”

Mitchell_Lewis's avatar

@Qingu I never idealized any activists, I just said that some people were trying to change things they want to see changed. I didn’t say they’re going about it the right way, or even know what they’re talking about. You’re right, that’s the problem. If those activists don’t know how to get what they want, or if it’s even possible, why aren’t those of us who do leading the activists who don’t? We may be a representative democracy, but we can’t be accurately represented if we don’t make our needs known.

The action I’m advocating, aside from being a sign toting activist, is getting involved in politics at a base level and working your way up. Start out with city meetings, then state, then regional, then national, taking positions of power as you go if possible and change things from the inside. If it’s not worth your time and energy to do that, then you’ve no right to complain.

Even if you’re not in a position of political power, there are still things you can do based on your profession. For example, as a graphic designer I am fully capable of launching a campaign against any issue I choose in an attempt to influence the masses and make their needs known to those in positions of power. Now I’m not a teacher, a doctor, a construction worker, or a fast food sales clerk so I can’t tell you how they could change things they wanted to but I’m sure they could find a way.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

Last time I checked labor unions had lots of lobbyist and political backing I thought they were middle class. Plus every profesion has a lobbying group so not sure who you are talking about. And no one is stopping you from testifying for or against new legislation in congress or meeting with your Reps to discuss your concern with legislation. Anyways stop fluthering and start writting your representatives! Maybe even talk to them!

Snarp's avatar

@Mitchell_Lewis I disagree with your notion that you’ve got no right to complain. That’s sort of what the first amendment is, your right to complain. You may not be aware how incredibly difficult it is to be involved in the way you describe, particularly to a working parent. Voting, writing letters, even talking to people you know and answering questions on Fluther are aspects of political involvement. In fact the complaining itself is involvement.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

Honestly the best way to change things is to lobby for it. Everyone wants to give lobbyist a bad name but if you get a campaign going then show a politician that his constituents care about that issue then you will see things get done. Its that simple (or hard)

philosopher's avatar

I am looking for moderation on all issues and common sense.
I know well how checks and balance are suppose to work.
I care about what is best for the American people.
I care about the Middle Class people that get up go to work and pay taxes.
The Politicians on the R and L do not seem to care about us.
I do not favor either party. I find fault with them both.
I want NAFTA renegotiated in favor of America. The list of what I want is long.
I’d like to see a real Independent as our next President. A Middle Class educated person.
I am not looking to for a fight. I am looking for solutions. Ideas that I believe Americans have.
I know some people understand debate and looking for solutions. I also know some people are in capable of anything more than confrontation. I have no time for such worthless people.
Debate is good and vicious attacks are pointless.
I wanted to see what what was on everyone’s mind.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@philosopher what you really need, I think, is to start looking away from government to provide those things. Government is a hammer; it’s not a jeweler’s instrument. Governments are fine things for directing armies (well, not so good, really, but far better than individuals), building some roads, deciding where bridges should be and other massive things like that, including setting up the system of laws and courts that broadly govern our lives. After that, they really need to step back and let us contract and arrange for our own health care, home mortgages (or rent), working arrangements with employers and employees, and so forth. Government does not do these things well.

All of the American people (to narrow that focus) want what is best for “the American people”, but you and I may disagree on what you and I want. Should we expect government to provide it for us? I certainly don’t. That’s why I work. I’m sure that’s why you work, too. We would both be better off if the government left us alone (as much as that’s possible—I hate the responses that seem to think, “well, he wants limited government, so obviously he’s in favor of the Somali model”—that’s simplistic and wrong).

For example, why do we even need a NAFTA treaty among the nations of North America? What treaty (other than our own Constitution) governs trade between, say, California and Texas or Michigan and Indiana or any US state and any other US state? We can do with considerably fewer rules, I think. We should be able to fairly easily negotiate a “trade agreement” with our NA trading partners that takes into account national sovereignty and varying rules and sets up a system for adjudicating disputes between parties without having to account for things like “anti-dumping”, for example. (To my mind, if Canada wants to ‘support’ its lumber industry by having all Canadians pay a tax to subsidize American home builders, why should I cry about that?)

njnyjobs's avatar

I think that the system of check and balance should be implemented the way it was meant to be, as pointed out by @CyanoticWasp. However, present day governance has made it convenient to go around the system with executive orders and similar tactics.

Snarp's avatar

@njnyjobs I don’t think going around the system is anything new. In that respect presidents have often found ways to get around Congress, and Congress finds ways to reign them in. Bush was a very strong president and Congress was unable to reign him in due to a Republican majority part of the time, political maneuvering part of the time, and perhaps a desire to allow the strong president precedent to be set. So now it has been, and Obama may or may not take advantage of it. So far he’s been pretty tame in his use of the power that Bush left to him.

Qingu's avatar

@philosopher, why do you think NAFTA should be renogiated? How would it “favor America”?

You also never answered my questions about what specific proposals and ideas from Democrats (or Republicans, heh) you think are “too left wing” or “lack common sense.” What proposals, specifically, would you like to see?

It’s very easy to say you want politicians with “common sense” and “middle class values.” Those are campaign slogans. And they are basically meaningless statements. It’s harder to figure out which specific ideas you agree with and why. Have you done that?

lilikoi's avatar

@philosopher Without reading the above responses:

I think most people in the U.S. are not represented. How do you think Bush circumvented impeachment with 19% (dis)approval rating. If middle class aren’t represented, surely lower class aren’t either. Homeless people are totally screwed.

Checks and balances are being eroded. Power is being concentrated at the executive branch.

In reality, there is little difference between republicans and democrats. Yes, there is the abortion, guns, civil unions, etc. But this extremism is largely perpetuated by the media. At the heart of politics, republicans and democrats are in bed with each other. Sometimes I feel that elections are completely rigged. Bush-Gore, for example, and what was up with McCain picking up Palin? Sure looked like he threw in the towel there…

You can’t have a democracy with only two parties, let alone one; the very act of squeezing out any third, or god forbid fourth, party from an election is proof this ain’t a well functioning system.

Qingu's avatar

@lilikoi, you think Republicans and Democrats are in bed with each other? Please explain unanimous Republican opposition to any Democratic legislative agenda.

Forming conspiracy theories and railing against the two-party system strikes me as nothing more than political laziness. (And you do realize that in multiparty systems, the government forms coalitions that end up resembling one side of our two-party system anyway, right?)

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