Checks And Balances

College of Political Knowledge

Subject:  American Government

This could be a humorous post on the aftermath of the Christmas season, but sense I have NO sense of humor that I am aware of….it probably is not what this post is about.

A new year and time to examine the government as we know it…..it is obvious that it is not working as well as the founders intended (or is it?)………

In the beginning of this country our forefathers brought forth a unique idea, well to them it was unique, that we should have three (3) branches of government because this would keep any one branch from becoming more powerful than the others and they called it the American “checks and balances”.

But what does this mean?  By creating three branches of government, the delegates built a “check and balance” system into the Constitution. This system was built so that no one branch of our government could become too powerful.

Each branch is restrained by the other two in several ways. For example, the president may veto a law passed by Congress. Congress can override that veto with a vote of two-thirds of both houses. Another example is that the Supreme Court may check Congress by declaring a law unconstitutional. The power is balanced by the fact that members of the Supreme Court are appointed by the president. Those appointments have to be approved by Congress.

The process goes thusly……..

The system of checks and balances is an important part of the Constitution. With checks and balances, each of the three branches of government can limit the powers of the others. This way, no one branch becomes too powerful. Each branch “checks” the power of the other branches to make sure that the power is balanced between them. How does this system of checks and balances work?

The process of how laws are made (see the following page) is a good example of checks and balances in action. First, the legislative branch introduces and votes on a bill. The bill then goes to the executive branch, where the President decides whether he thinks the bill is good for the country. If so, he signs the bill, and it becomes a law.

If the President does not believe the bill is good for the country, he does not sign it. This is called a veto. But the legislative branch gets another chance. With enough votes, the legislative branch can override the executive branch’s veto, and the bill becomes a law.

Once a law is in place, the people of the country can test it through the court system, which is under the control of the judicial branch. If someone believes a law is unfair, a lawsuit can be filed. Lawyers then make arguments for and against the case, and a judge decides which side has presented the most convincing arguments. The side that loses can choose to appeal to a higher court, and may eventually reach the highest court of all, the Supreme Court.

If the legislative branch does not agree with the way in which the judicial branch has interpreted the law, they can introduce a new piece of legislation, and the process starts all over again.

Now that you have a grip on exactly what the term means…let’s move on to the meat of the subject……

If you stop and think about the subject there is a case to be made that it is time to dump the idea and start fresh…….why on earth would I make such an assertion?

Easy….look at DC today….it is solidly cemented into place by gridlock….each branch is busy covering their own butts for any worthwhile legislation to move forward……and Peter Aldhous agrees with me in a recent article……

– The political gridlock in DC can’t seem to get much worse, and public opinion polls about Congress can’t get much lower. At Medium, Peter Aldhous runs through the usual explanations—partisan media outlets, campaign donations run amok, gerrymandering, to name a few—but he thinks those fed up with the gridlock must ask a more fundamental question regarding the Founding Fathers: That would be “whether a band of eighteenth-century revolutionaries who had just thrown off the yoke of colonialism really have the answers we need for effective government today.” In short, we should think about whether the age of “checks and balances” has run its course, argues Aldhous. He acknowledges it’s a “radical” idea, but allowing the majority party to have its way, at least temporarily, might be the only real solution. That might mean scrapping midterm elections, for example, which often result in a House dedicated solely to undermining the president’s agenda. “Yes, what I’m proposing would mean accepting that sometimes we have to give those whose views we oppose a few years to put their ideas into practice,” he writes. But we’d still be in a democracy, meaning voters can still “vote the bums out” as needed. Click for his full column.

I think no matter which side of the spectrum you decide to reside you can still see the necessity for progress….and at the same time you can see that gridlock is preventing anything worthwhile from getting accomplished……so I ask…..is is time to dump the concept of ‘checks and balances’?  Or should we proceed as usual and hope for the best?

You will not be graded on your answers…….whatcha think?

18 thoughts on “Checks And Balances

  1. It certainly might be time to think of something different for sure! We have at least one element of one party seemingly devoted to destroying the entire system. When I was a kid we called that “Communism” and it led to The American Communist Party being outlawed if memory serves me right. Maybe we ought to take a fresh look at the events that led up to that decision.

    1. It is time to rethink a lot of our system….C&B are just one…electoral college is another……and t find a way to get more people involved in the politics of the country….instead we are looking at ways to limit that…..

  2. Perhaps. The original system has been gamed with House and Senate polcies that defeat the purpose of majorty wins. Executive orders too often over ride congressional approval however under current circumstances witha gridlocked Congress it seems the only one who can move any action forward is the POTUS. The ideologicl mindset of many today means even the Supreme Court can be gamed so maybe a 10-year term limit for them

    1. A Helluva idea….10 years for justice….I really like that…the only problem is that one party could load the court in their favor….maybe stagger the terms would help….

      1. “.maybe stagger the terms would help….”

        Either that or arrange to allow justices who were selected under one party to retire after 10 years but only if the Party that selected them is in office. If not they would have the option to stay until the Party of their choice was in office

  3. Interesting post. Because it is what I was educated to believe, there was a time I would have written something similar.

    In fact, the gridlock no longer exists. We can only wish it did.

    The Federal Government is not efficient, but why? Part of what Peter Aldhous says is true. Washington was not designed to work efficiently. However, what we see today is not what the Founders designed. Consider. Would the founders have considered most of today’s Federal spending constitutional? Social Security? Medicare? The Department of Education? Food stamps? Where is any of that authorized in the Constitution they wrote and supported?

    Washington has broken out of the checks and balances. That’s why spending is out of control. Nonetheless, government will never be efficient. Socialist systems exist to acquire power, not to produce goods and services efficiently.

    What happened? In addition to the checks and balances between the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches, the founders provided another set of checks. They intended to defuse power between federal, state, and local governments. They expected the different levels of government to check and balance each other. In fact, most taxing and spending use to be done by our local government. Now the federal government taxes and spends almost twice as much as state and local governments combined. Thanks in part to the 16th and the 17th amendments, state and local governments could not check the growth of Federal power.

    However, there is more to it than just a few amendments. Just how did Federal spending grow so large? We forgot to remain a moral people. We let our politicians buy our votes with our own money. They offered to give us stuff with “other people’s money.” When we accepted such bribes, we elected too many dishonest men and women. In addition, our elected officials appointed and confirmed the nomination of dishonest judges. Therefore, the system the founders created now exists only on paper.

    1. “Would the founders have considered most of today’s Federal spending constitutional? Social Security? Medicare? The Department of Education? Food stamps? Where is any of that authorized in the Constitution they wrote and supported?”

      What about the bloated defense budget and corporate welfare?

      We don’t live in the 18th century anymore. Conditions change and the people who framed the constitution were not fools who didn’t see the need to adapt to the changes that would occur. No doubt you won’t accept the mandate in the Constitution’s preamble to “promote the general welfare” as a doorway to meet certain social needs but to presume that all of the founding fathers would be opposed to this is simply a spurious notion.

      I could equally argue that the founding fathers would have never dreamed the 2nd amendment would have been taken to the extremes it has today either, but like you I can only speculate as to how they would view the situation in the 21st century.

      I’m sure many of them thought that the concepts of capitalism would work better than they have and that about 400 people would not own nearly 50% of the nation’s wealth. Had they, they might have indeed written something in about the need to for the federal government to provide some form of aid for those who were victims of a bad economy which revolves around so-called free-market principles.

      But again I would wound up like you simply imagining what those 18th century aristocrats and white men of relative wealth would think of conditions we find ourselves in today.

      1. lbwoodgate – Thank you for your reply.

        Whether the defense budget is bloated or not is debatable. However, the defense budget is clearly constitutional.

        What is corporate welfare? That term is ill-defined. Whatever it means, we are ill-advised to let politicians bail out failing companies, loan tax dollars to private interests, complicate our tax code with Utopian schemes, and so forth. Don’t we have enough trouble keeping our politicians honest? Do we really want our leaders to favor certain constituents, companies and industries over others? Is picking winners and losers is the government’s job? No, the our government does just exactly that. Don’t you suppose that has a lot to do with why the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer?

        Consider. Do we need government to protect our rights, to protect us from each other, or to spend our money for us?

        We don’t live in the 18th century anymore. Conditions change and the people who framed the constitution were not fools who didn’t see the need to adapt to the changes that would occur. No doubt you won’t accept the mandate in the Constitution’s preamble to “promote the general welfare” as a doorway to meet certain social needs but to presume that all of the founding fathers would be opposed to this is simply a spurious notion.

        Has this paragraph replaced the Preamble to Constitution? Have we scrapped the rest of the document?

        Have you read The Federalist Papers or perused The Anti-Federalist Papers. What these writings suggest is that the founding fathers anticipated our behavior quite well. How did they do that. Did they anticipate the technology we use? No, but technology does not pose the problem we need government to help us solve.

        Here is how Madison put the problem.

        But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. — James Madison from The Federalist No. 51

        You talk about second amendment rights. Have you forgotten how many innocents have been killed by government thugs carrying guns? Do you think the NAZIs and the Communists killed millions of armed citizens?

        Can I offer you a perfect solution for the problem of government? Is the Constitution perfect? No and no. To create a perfect government we would need to be perfect. Then we would need no government. Meanwhile, the best we can do is elect honorable people, people who will strive to keep the oath to support and defend the Constitution.

        In the 18th century, being honorable meant you kept your word. Today it does not seem to mean that. That is a problem for which “those 18th century aristocrats and white men of relative wealth” had no solution.

      2. ”Whether the defense budget is bloated or not is debatable.”

        Not really

        ”However, the defense budget is clearly constitutional”

        This doesn’t give it an open ended budget

        ”What is corporate welfare? That term is ill-defined.”

        Really? Well how do you define social welfare? and while you’re at it, define “Utopian schemes”?

        ”Don’t you suppose that has a lot to do with why the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer?”

        I’m not sure. You were kind of vague here.

        ”Has this paragraph replaced the Preamble to Constitution? Have we scrapped the rest of the document?”

        Huh? What? Does including the entire text of the constitution somehow negate or alter that part of the preamble?

        ”Have you read The Federalist Papers or perused The Anti-Federalist Papers. What these writings suggest is that the founding fathers anticipated our behavior quite well.”

        At some levels perhaps but this limited perspective left more open to guess at than settling anything for years or centuries to come. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay were responsible for the federalist papers and John DeWitt, Patrick Henry, and pen names Brutus & Cato wrote the bulk of the anti-federalist papers. Seven men hardly constitute the all encompassing “founding fathers”.

        Madison, who had a brilliant mind later changed his position some what about the primacy of a central government. He was a hypochondriac and was always in poor health. Not a very stable person to bet the entire future of America on. In fact, as I noted in one of my posts on my blog, a closer look at history will reveal that a degree of chaos and uncertainty plagued the new states and many of the leaders who would later call for a central, National government. One source noted the following:

        The truth is that the disputatious founders — who were revolutionaries, not choir boys — seldom agreed about anything. Never has the country produced a more brilliantly argumentative, individualistic or opinionated group of politicians. Far from being a soft-spoken epoch of genteel sages, the founding period was noisy and clamorous, rife with vitriolic polemics and partisan backbiting. Instead of bequeathing to posterity a set of universally shared opinions, engraved in marble, the founders shaped a series of fiercely fought debates that reverberate down to the present day.   SOURCE

        So all this is to say that nothing is really intended to be viewed in any absolute terms.

        ”You talk about second amendment rights. Have you forgotten how many innocents have been killed by government thugs carrying guns? Do you think the NAZIs and the Communists killed millions of armed citizens?”
        Puleease Tom. This is a straw man argument. A fear-mongering red-herring. We’re not Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. This notion too that some how a disparate and disorganized band of armed patriots spread around the country could fight off the sophisticated Army we have today is a fantasy that alludes more to a time when this WAS possible – about 200 years ago. Not today. Sorry.

        ”Meanwhile, the best we can do is elect honorable people, people who will strive to keep the oath to support and defend the Constitution.”
        Couldn’t agree more. Have you got some technique that will detect these characteristics in human beings who claim they want to “serve the people”?

      3. This doesn’t give it an open ended budget.

        Opened ended? You obviously know nothing about defense budget. It has been decades the defense budget took up the majority of Federal spending. The American people don’t like spending on defense, and they begrudge every cent spent upon defense.

        Really? Well how do you define social welfare? and while you’re at it, define “Utopian schemes”?

        Here is the Preamble to the Constitution.

        We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

        The expression used is “general Welfare”, “not social welfare”. The Constitution does not authorize welfare program for either the People or corporations. When busybodies use government to transform society instead of just protecting the rights of the people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; they promote their own vision of Utopia. That is, they attempt to implement a Utopian scheme.
        The Founding Fathers
        Whether you respect the people who wrote it or not, the American people through their state governments approved the Constitution. They even elected that “hypochondriac and was always in poor health” James Madison as their president. There is no evidence they approved a living Constitution.

        Did the founding fathers have their disputes? Were they imperfect. Good grief! Who is perfect? Don’t people always squabble? But do our imperfections justify doing evil? No? Then don’t pretend the Constitution says what it clearly does not say. Don’t you know the end does not justify the means?

        Puleease Tom. This is a straw man argument. A fear-mongering red-herring.If you are not ridiculously afraid, then why are you trying to take guns from ordinary citizen? When has such a law it ever produced more good than harm?

        When I look at the dangers posed by my neighbors, I see three classes.
        1. Those content to go about their own business.
        2. Parasites
        2. Busybodies
        3. Those who wish to serve others.

        Most people are in the first class. How many parasites are there? I don’t know. When we have no other choice, we support ourselves and join the first class. Because they seek to arouse envy and strife in everyone else, busybodies always pose a danger. And our Lord knows there are too many busybodies, and we are too easily tempted into their ranks. Those who honestly wish to serve are rare, but their example sometime inspires the rest of us to share in their greatness.

        When busybodies and parasites think themselves above the law, we already know they will not obey any law that takes their guns. And when busybodies and parasites pose the greatest danger, what sense does it make to render everyone defenseless against them?

        When most of my neighbors would only use a gun to defend themselves and their families, I see no point in taking their guns away from them. It may be that one day someone will shoot me, but I think I am far more likely to die some other way. My biggest bill is my tax bill. None but government will ever rob me of that much money. Moreover, no one but my government has threatened to deprive me of the right to defend myself. Therefore, I think the real danger is a government run by busybodies and parasites. In fact, we just about have such a government.

      4. Tom,

        I have spent way too much time arguing with ideologues like you this week so you believe what the f— you want to.. I really don’t give a sh–. It’s the same old round and round arguments and nothing ever get’s resolved.

        People who do this and don’t get tired of it are in my opinion little more than trolls

    2. There are NO innocents in DC…….everyone of them is a corrupt toad….no exceptions…..personally I would rather see the people get the money than banks and PACs……at least they would be doing something to help the people not their handlers…..just a thought.

      1. I am not sure what you mean by the people getting the money.

        Is everyone corrupt in DC? That’s not for me to judge. I just think some of them try to obey the Constitution, but most do not, and that is our fault. We elected them.

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