Incumbency Of The Executive And Checks And Balances

By Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa, (On Twitter) @c_tamirisa

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Issue

The 2008 election costed a total of about $1 billion and is the first billion dollar election in the country’s history. Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas has been recently reported as saying that the incumbent president, Barack Obama, has the capacity to amass a large campaign chest, besides having the incumbent advantage, and therefore, would be difficult to defeat in November 2012.

In recent times, the issue of campaign finance reform has a long history since the 1990s debates between the then president Bill Clinton and the Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, though neither could curtail its role. Nor could President Obama, albeit the best of bi-partisan intentions.

The capacity to raise money in politics, especially in electoral contests for the executive branches of the 50 states as well as at the federal level, largely determines the ability of politicians to win in elections. Large sums of money is usually raised through corporate donations and individual contributions subject to the some restrictions (the discussion of which need not be within the scope of this issue for reasons that would be evident below) such as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 also commonly known as the McCain-Feingold law, portions of which the Supreme Court of the United States had recently overturned in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) case citing violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution because, the Court argued, money in politics constitutes free speech.

Relevance to the People

The relative role of the various political interest groups through which those interested in seeking elective office raise money to pay for the expenditures of political campaigning is highly skewed. Few groups with the capacity to donate large sums of money influence the legislative process in Washington disproportionately. Even though many individual taxpaying households also donate to candidates of their preference, typically, except at the polling booth, the voice of most Americans is fragmented to be able to shape legislation in Congress or to be able influence U.S policies, both domestic and foreign.

State Legislators and Members of Congress act independently and individually, in the interest of their local constituents, and hence shaping concerted opinion in legislative bodies is often a protracted and, at times, a disorganized process despite leadership and tradition through committee mechanisms, but this is how representative democracy works. Legislating is, by definition, an exercise in political compromise and moves slowly toward becoming tidy and to the satisfaction of the many. Leadership more often belongs with the Executive. The role of money, therefore, looms larger in the Executive Branch of the federal government and in state capitals for gubernatorial elections than in the elections for state legislatures or the United States Congress because of the capacity of the executives to shape both policies and legislation in a focused manner in comparison to the legislators or members of Congress.

If money can be spent freely in politics by whoever can afford it for their causes, and typically to any extent, and if legislative bodies cannot be as concerted as the executive branches in the states and at the federal level, then how can checks and balances be restored to ensure that few groups do not disproportionately represent themselves in a system of one person, one vote?

Most state governors are permitted to be elected by their state constitutions for 2 terms and so is the president of the United States. Incumbents typically indeed have an advantage over challengers and the people do not remove them from office unless their performance is abysmal for their pocketbooks or there is a controversy. Still, the voting citizens are often unhappy and critical of the work of their government and find themselves lacking in choices when they go to the polling booths on election day. Mid-term elections are generally seen as the barometer of executive performance for the coming general elections. However, they do not always result in either better policies, legislation or the replacement of the incumbents. The voters are usually convinced by the incumbents or convince themselves to not make changes without caution or benefit of doubt. Political apathy also plays a role in incumbent reelections, given the usually low voter turnouts. Voter satisfaction or dissatisfaction is largely manipulated and maneuvered by public relations campaigns and pollsters. The executives are not put to a referendum of the people’s representatives in the legislative bodies before they decide to wield their money clout and the clout of incumbency to seek office again.

What must the states and the federal government do?

The states and the federal government must amend their respective constitutions to require the state governors and the President of the United States to be subject to a vote of confidence in the January of the 4th year of their first terms, around the time of the State of the State and the State of the Union speeches, and pass that vote by a 2/3rds majority to be permitted to file their papers with the election commissions for reelection to a second term, because elections are very intensive periods in American politics and distract as much as they can focus (if there is leadership) attention on the issues at hand.

Whatever the amount of money involved, one person, one vote will then become weightier than it is today to ensure checks and balances between the legislatures and the executives.

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The Impending Government Shutdown

By Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa, (On Twitter) @c_tamirisa

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Issue

If the United States Congress does not pass a continuing resolution through September 30, 2011 (the end of Fiscal Year 2011 which began on October 1, 2010), the government will shut down because no appropriations will have been made for the various government agencies to function. The cause of the issue is the budget debate. A similar shut down had occurred in 1996 during the presidency of Bill Clinton.

Relevance to the People 

All government expenditures or outlays by the United States Treasury will cease to occur, including payments of salaries to government workers and contractors.

Is the shutdown necessary if no agreement is reached on government spending and reform?

Yes.

Then, can the government continue to remain open?

Yes.

How?

(a) The Federal Reserve takes over funding the government deficit at FY 2010 appropriations beginning March 01 as approved by the Congress; (b) The Congress and WH will continue to negotiate through the remainder of this FY, through September 30th, the course of government reform; (c) US debt ceiling and new debt issuances by the Treasury will be frozen until the negotiations are complete and most likely for the foreseeable future, legislating the FY2012 nominal budget as the budget constraint for the next decade, subject to revisions once a decade; (d) The Fed will make industrial policy for the US through US debt buybacks and Term Asset-Backed Lending Facility (TALF) over the next decade and the Congress will overhaul taxation to a consumption tax structure to be mutually consistent; (e) Obamacare will be revised as a part of government reform of consolidation and streamlining to a government health safety net only and to encourage the expansion of private health care supply; (f) Financial regulatory reform will be revisited.

What must the government communicate to the public?

If the government must shut down, the WH, the Congress and the Fed must issue a joint statement before the shut down that, as the United States deliberates government reform through 09/30/2011, the Fed will standby to calm the global markets as US debt issuances are frozen for the foreseeable future.

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US Veto of UN Resolution on Israeli Settlements in Palestine

By Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa, (On Twitter) @c_tamirisa

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Comments on this post will be closed when a superseding article on the same issue is posted.

Issue

US Veto of UN Resolution on Israeli Settlements in Palestine on February 18, 2011

The United States of America vetoed the resolution that “Israel, as the occupying power, immediately and completely [cease] all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem and that it fully respect its legal obligations in this regard.” American veto did not permit the resolution to pass under UN rules because the United States is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. To those more interested, the rest of the report can be found on the United Nations web site here, which also has a video of the deliberations of the UN Security Council.

Relevance to the People

Independence from Middle Eastern Oil Supply to Global Oil Markets

Even though the President of the United States is the Executive and makes policy as a representative of the people of the United States, the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was crucial in the decision to go to wars in the Middle East since the end of World War II, typically at a great cost to the American people and at great benefit to special interest groups, especially the oil lobby. Therefore, public opinion in the United States in advance of any policy actions by the United States can influence American foreign and military policies to avert future military conflicts and save American lives by eliminating the dependence of the United States on Middle Eastern oil supply to the global oil markets.

What the White House Should Do?

1. The White House should not have vetoed the UN Resolution as the only country to have done so. But for the US veto, Israel would have had to respect the 1967 borders of the two states, Israel and Palestine.

2. The United States must ask Israel to work with its neighbors in the region to peacefully settle the conflict.
3. When conflict resolution regionally is difficult, the United Nations must become the forum for dispute resolution.
4. The United Nations must be reformed as necessary to be able to effectively address the global challenges of the 21st century.

What the White House and the Congress Should Do?

  1. Pass a comprehensive energy bill to make the United States self-sufficient in its energy supplies.
  2. The White House must initiate UN reforms for the Congress to later ratify them.

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