The American System of Government

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Chapter 4
We – the People

Dividing Power: The American System of Government
The Basics
Americans have distrusted any concentration of political power ever since its founding •American form of government was written down in a Constitution o1787, after thirteen colonies gained independence from Great Britain •“Tyranny” of King George III – the Americans wanted to make sure no person was allowed to have too much power •Representative democracy

oElected representatives who could be regularly shifted out oPower rested with the people
Federal system
oIndividual states which give only certain specific powers to a central government oFederalism
The separation of powers
oDivided the power into three
oNo one is too powerful

Federalism
The federal government can only do what it has specifically been given the power to do in the Constitution oDelegated powers by the states
Reserved powers are for the states and the people
oState rights
The states gave the federal government power over the following areas oForeign affairs (treaties and relations with other countries) oDefense (defending the nation and declaring war)
oMonetary policy
oTrade (among states, between states and government, between the nation and other countries)

Separation of powers
Breaking power into three
oThe Executive (the President)
oThe Legislative (Congress)
oThe Judicial (Supreme Court)
Main idea – power could never be combined under one man oThreaten people and democracy
The Founding Fathers created the system of checks and balances oEach of the branches can limit the power of two

The Congress – legislative powers
Two “chambers” – the House of Representatives and the Senate •The smaller states were afraid of being controlled of the larger states •The number of representatives each state got in the House of Representatives was based on the population of the state •In the Senate, each state was given two representatives no matter how small or large •Congress has the power to:

oPass laws (legislation)
oLevy taxes
oDecide how federal money is used
No one in the federal government gets paid nothing gets funded unless Congress has passed a “bill” approving the use of money •Members of the House of Representatives – Congressmen
o435 members, all its members are elected every two years (democratic) •Members of the Senate – Senators
o100 members, two from each state, elected for six years of the time (stable) •Checks on Congress
oThe President can veto a bill by refusing to sign it
oThe Supreme Court can declare laws “unconstitutional”

The President – executive powers
The President is Head of State and represents the people of the US at home and abroad •The President is Chief Executive
oHeads all federal organizations, has a “cabinet” with political advisors •The President is Commander-in-Chief
oHe is head of the armed forces of the only superpower in the world. Only Congress can declare war, but the President can ask Congress for the power to use “necessary force” •The President is Chief Diplomat

oDecides foreign and defense policy, appoints ambassadors, sets up embassies and negotiates treaties (only become law if two-thirds of the Senate approves) •The power of the President has increased since 1787, he leads three million people who work for this branch of the government •Checks on the President

oThe Supreme Court can declare his actions unconstitutional oCongress can change or refuse to pass the legislation suggested by him oCongress can override a presidential veto with a two-third majority oCongress and Supreme Court can “impeach” the President (remove him)

The Supreme Court – judicial powers
Highest court in the land, all courts must accept its interpretation of the law •States have their own laws and their own supreme courts, but if there is a conflict, the federal law overrides the state law (to make sure the law is applied the same...
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