American Government


Having divided power between the national government and the states, the Constitution produced ongoing contests regarding where the power appropriately resides. Moreover, federalism produces tensions between America’s increasing aspirations for national standards and its traditional disposition to allow states latitude about how to proceed.

1. Examine the slides on Medicaid (#7), Vote by Mail Policy (#8) and Grant-in-Aid (#9). Answer the following questions based upon the information of each slide and your knowledge of federalism: Consider the following factors when preparing your answers- Economic factors, political factors, community/cultural factors that might exist in different states/regions of the country.

a. What is gained and what is lost by letting states decide on these issues?

b. What patterns did you find exist?

c. Describe how the push toward national standards impact the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. Provide at least one specific example.

2. In The Federalist No 39, James Madison argues that the Constitution has created a government that is “neither wholly federal nor wholly national.” He believed that the Constitution reflected a mixture of federal principles and nationalizing forces. Considering the importance Anti-Federalists placed upon including the 10th Amendment (Powers Reserved to the States) to the Constitution has its importance and power been compromised in recent history?

a. How has the power of the federal government changed as it relates to the Reserve Clause in recent years? Provide at least two examples.

b. What role did the Supreme Court played in determining the relative balance of power between the national government and the states? Provide at least two specific examples.

c. Discuss the National Supremacy Clause and how it impacts the system of federalism.

3. Proponents of the system of Separation of Powers argue that it allows for a check on the various departments of government. Americans are often so wedded to the idea of Separation of Powers that we believe that without such arrangements, tyranny, corruption, and all other manner of governmental vices would ensue. However, other industrial democracies fuse the executive and legislative branches of government together. Some even argue that without such a mix it is difficult to hold government officials accountable for their actions, considering that the Separation of Powers provides politicians with a blame avoidance structure whereby Congress can blame the president, and vice versa.

a. What are the respective benefits and costs of a presidential system with separation of powers and a parliamentary system that mixes executive and legislative authority and has no divided party government?

b. Discuss TWO of the following checks and balances feature and whether you think it is a feature worth keeping in our current system:

1. Presidential veto on laws approved by Congress

2. Congressional override of a presidential veto

3. Supreme Court Judicial Review to determine Constitutionality of law

4. Senate approval of presidential Supreme Court nominees

5. President as Commander-in-Chief sending US troops overseas prior to a Congressional declaration of war

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