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Her Guide to Government: The Basics


With the U.S. Federal Government reopening after a sixteen day-long shutdown, from October 1st to October 17th, many are confused as to how and why it happened.  Well for those of you still confused out there, President Obama signed a bill a while back proposing his health care plan, better known as the infamous “Obamacare.”  This bill opted to decrease medical care and insurance costs while also requiring all Americans to have health coverage.  His plan asked for immense government spending that the Republicans were quite hesitant to provide.  So, when it came time for Congress to pass a budget for the next fiscal year, Republicans wanted to find a way to get rid of or delay Obamacare. So, they attached it to the spending bill, despite the fact that it was passed, signed, and then held up by the Supreme Court and was going to take effect even if the government was shutdown. The Democratic-led Senate and Republican-led House of Representatives argued over this issue and after they were unable to come to a decision before the congressional budget deadline, the government closed.

                                                                                                                              *Image from Wikipedia

While Republicans and Democrats constantly bicker in Congress, the issue of government spending is normally one of its more prevalent debates, especially in recent years with hyper partisanship prevailing.  Democrats generally support increased spending while Republicans denounce it.  One of the major issues concerning government spending is the just-raised debt ceiling.  The debt ceiling is basically a way for Congress to limit the amount of national debt that can be issued by the Treasury.  In 2011, the ceiling was raised by $1.2 trillion, from $15.2 trillion to $16.4 trillion.  Republicans stated that our spending was getting out of control while Democrats maintained that the increased spending is helping our government pay for our already accumulated debt.  So throughout the year, both parties continued to argue, which is why we saw so much trouble, yet again, when it was time to raise the debt ceiling by October 17th.

Now after all this conflict, it is best to breakdown this ever so interesting system, which has been around for hundreds of years, experienced many struggles, and just started operating again. We’ll keep it simple in order to let you in on the most crucial aspects and members who take part in this organization that, at times, seems completely foreign.    

First off, here are the simple facts: The United States government consists of three main bodies: the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches.  Each of these branches has their own powers and goals, all working in an effort to secure the freedom and safety of us, American citizens. Isn’t that nice! The government is a pretty cool thing, so now let’s move even further and breakdown each branch.

                                                                                                                          *Image from The Huffington Post 

To make things easy, we’ll first look at the Judicial branch.  So this branch consists of both the Supreme Court and smaller state courts.  The state courts take on most legal cases, like Spencer and Heidi’s attempted elopement during that one episode of The Hills.  Then there is the Supreme Court which houses presidentially appointed judges who serve life-long terms.  These judges are the head honchos, so they deal with the more daunting cases.  Presidents nominate judges that share the same ideological beliefs as they do, hence why so many cases are split down the middle. Conservatives vs. liberals, back at it again! Right now the Supreme Court is run by Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative nominated by President Bush.

Next, we have the Legislative branch.  Congress has two controlling bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate.  The House of Representatives currently has 435 elected members, representing the fifty states, with number of representatives based on population sizes; so more populated states have more elected members and vice versa.  Then there’s the Senate which has 100 elected Senate members, meaning two members each per fifty states.  These two offices deal with ratifying bills, policy requests, and lots more.  The House of Representatives is currently controlled by the Republican Party, led by Speaker John Boehner, and the Senate has a Democratic majority led by Senator Harry Reid. So you can see why they might clash from “time to time.”

And now, the Executive branch.  This office is the one and only branch housing the President, Vice President, First lady, and the Cabinet.  These people are the cool kids in our government and President Obama maintains a lot of power. Leader of the free world, duh!

The Cabinet is basically a fancy name for department.  There are fifteen represented departments throughout the Cabinet.  They are run by the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, and finally the Attorney General.  I know, it’s a lot…but each respective department deals with a different task.  Take the Department of Education, for example, which deals with stuff like our public school system and the No Child Left Behind Act (okay, yes this is not too tricky). 

One of the most important departments is the Department of State, which is headed by former Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.  John Kerry advises the President on issues of foreign affairs.  His most current issue has been the problem with chemical weapons in Syria.  So Kerry manages the President’s tasks abroad in order to make sure the grand ol’ US of A remains respected on the international front. 

Then we move to Vice President Joe Biden.  Joe Biden was elected into office as the 47th VP of the United States during the 2008 Obama Presidential campaign.  Before entering office, Joe Biden was the Senator of Delaware, starting his term at age twenty-nine, meaning he was one of the youngest Senate members ever elected.  As Vice President, Joe Biden advises Mr. Obama on both domestic and foreign affairs.  Lately, however, his biggest concern has been finding ways to lessen the cost of college. Thanks Joe!  

Finally we have President Barack Obama, aka: the Regina George of American politics.  Our President deals with issuing new policies, handling foreign affairs, controlling security, etc. etc.  Basically, he has the tough job of managing the United States of America.  Barack Obama lives in the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha.  Before his presidency, Barack Obama stood as the junior state Senator from Illinois and is now the 44th president of the United States.    

Alright collegiettes, you have survived this brief history lesson. Keep in mind, all these whacko politicos are not too bad once you know who’s who and what they do.  

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