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The American System Of Government Essay

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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 o 1787, 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

o Elected representatives who could be regularly shifted out o Power rested with the people
• Federal system
o Individual states which give only certain specific powers to a central government o Federalism
• The separation of powers
o Divided the power into three
o No one is too powerful

• The federal government can only do what it has specifically been given the power to do in the Constitution o Delegated powers by the states
• Reserved powers are for the states and the people
o State rights
• The states gave the federal government power over the following areas o Foreign affairs (treaties and relations with other countries) o Defense (defending the nation and declaring war)
o Monetary policy
o Trade (among states, between states and government, between the nation and other countries)

Separation of powers
• Breaking power into three
o The Executive (the President)
o The Legislative (Congress)
o The Judicial (Supreme Court)
• Main idea – power could never be combined under one man o Threaten people and democracy
• The Founding Fathers created the system of checks and balances o Each 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:

o Pass laws (legislation)
o Levy taxes
o Decide 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
o 435 members, all its members are elected every two years (democratic) • Members of the Senate – Senators
o 100 members, two from each state, elected for six years of the time (stable) • Checks on Congress
o The President can veto a bill by refusing to sign it
o The 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
o Heads all federal organizations, has a “cabinet” with political advisors • The President is Commander-in-Chief
o He 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

o Decides 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 ...

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