"There are only two certainties in life: death and taxes." That old adage is sad, but true. It is with this hated topic that we will begin to explore policy-making this week. Americans are certainly anti-tax people. Taxation without representation was one of the issues we took exception with and fought for our independence. Tuesday is that date that strikes fear into the tax procrastinator's heart--April 15th. The problem is that our tax code is complicated--perhaps too much so. The article below outlines some of the problems in reforming our code. Tax policy is made even more difficult in a divided government like ours. Here is what I would like you to do this week.
1. Read the article.
2. Come back here and explain why you think tax policy is so complicated. 3. What type of politics are in play when it comes to tax policies?
4. Finally, weigh in on what you think the thesis of the article is.
Well, you all have survived the dreaded third nine weeks. We will officially complete our in depth study on the institutions of government this week with our test on the bureaucracy and the judiciary. I hope you have learned a great deal of details concerning how our federal government really functions. To give you all a bit of a break this week, there is no article...only opinions and dialogue. Here is what I would like you to do this week.
Explain the most interesting tidbit you learned about each of the four institutions: Congress, the Presidency, the Bureaucracy, and the Judiciary. What surprised you? What made you concerned? What were you glad you finally found out? Tell me some great details!
Then, defend which branch you think is (a) the most powerful, (b) the least dangerous, and (c) the most misunderstood?
Finally, rate yourself on how well you think you understand the four institutions we have studied from 1-10 with 10 being "I've got this!"
The last day to post a comment for full credit is 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 11th.
This week we will begin our study of the last of the institutions, the federal judiciary. Their list of powers in the US Constitution is relatively unimpressive. There is no mention of their greatest power, judicial review. This power was conferred upon the courts by their own rulings. John Marshall, in writing the opinion in Marbury v. Madison said, " It is the province of the judicial department to say what the law is." Over 200 years later, the Supreme Court is still reviewing laws that allegedly conflict with the Constitution. The case you are reading about this week is very controversial. As the Affordable Care Act nears yet another "deadline," the law continues to stir up election year issues. Hobby Lobby and other corporations have challenged the birth control mandate on religious freedom grounds. The Obama administration argues that allowing these types of challenges would effectively dismantle civil rights for women and other minorities. So, like the SCOTUS, I want you to interpret the law. Here is what I would like you to do this week:
1. Read the article below.
2. How would you rule in this case? Why?
3. What is the benefit of your decision? What is the danger in your decision?
We will finish our discussions this week on the federal bureaucracy with a look at the problems that exist in this institution. Among the problems we will discuss are red tape, duplication, conflict, imperialism and waste. All of these problems make Americans crazy because they see their tax dollars adding up with very little to show for it. This article below is a bit lengthy, but a CLASSIC example of why the bureaucracy behaves the way it does. The two videos that accompany the article are great, too, but it is not necessary for you to watch them to complete this blog. The videos, however, will give you even more insight to how the bureaucracy behaves and well, "works." I do use that term loosely, though.
1. Read the article below.
2. Pick two problems of the bureaucracy listed above and give an example of each from the article.
3. Finally, explain just ONE thing you think the government could do to become more efficient. This suggestion may be from the article, our class discussions, or your own experiences.
This week we will transition from the Executive branch to the chapter on bureaucracy. We will start the week with a simulation on the structure of the White House Office, then test on the Presidency and finally conclude the week with our introduction to the bureaucracy. Working at the White House has to be the ultimate thrill! Imagine being part of history and helping to shape decisions that come out of the Oval Office in the West Wing. For me, it is hard to imagine there being a down-side to working there, especially knowing it may only be for at most 8 years. After reading this article, I realize I could never cut it in that world. I value my family time too much I suppose. I still find it challenging sometimes juggling my job with my family, but my boss has been there, too and she is very understanding. Okay, here is what I want you to do this week:
1. Read the article below.
2. What did you learn about the White House Office from the article?
3. What did you learn about Barack Obama's leadership style, if anything, from the article.
4. Finally, what do you think, would be the best and worst things about working in the West Wing?
As we wind down the week, we will wind down our study of the Presidency. We have studied the requirements, the duties and the roles of the President. This week, we will look at the honeymoon period and the second term slump. A quick study of President Obama's first 5-years in office highlights the trends that Wilson points out in his textbook. Furthermore, President Obama is victim of another trend: party polarization. This week, here is what I would like you to do:
1. Read the article in the first link.
2. Click on the second link and study the trends.
3. Analyze President Obama's job performance by using the information and the trends.
a. What trends are the most telling about his Presidency?
One discussion we will have this week concerns the many "hats" a President must wear. Although, the Constitution is concise in detailing the powers and duties of the office, more and more demands have been placed upon our Commander in Chief. We will study both the powers and the roles this week that the office entails and ask the question, 'How powerful is the President?"
Click on the link below. Study one week of the President's agenda. To do this, click any week prior to the current one. The link is from last week, but you may choose any week you want. Then, come back here and comment on what a typical day in the life of a President really embodies. What roles is he playing throughout the week and what powers do those actions embody?
We will wrap up our unit on Congress this week with a test. In between that test will be the start of our unit on the President. To bridge those units, I wanted to find an article that illustrated the inter-branch workings of the federal government. After an exhaustive search, I settled on one issue with two articles. I the President's State of the Union Address, he called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. In a midterm election cycle, people are lining up on both sides of this debate. Which side will you be on? I am providing you with two opinions on the subject. Keep an open mind until you read and process them both. Then come back and respond to the following:
1. What do you perceive is the best argument for raising the minimum wage?
2. What do you believe is the best argument in keeping the minimum at the current level or with only a marginal increase?
3. Which argument do you believe is the better of the two & why?
This week will study and actively participate in the legislative process. Writing bills is just the start of the arduous process that rarely sees a bill to fruition. I can hardly wait to see the outcomes for our class bills. One factor that often determines success in the legislative process is partisan support. Can the party leader keep his (or her) party in line? Or, are there too many fractures within the party? There are two articles below that illustrate this issue. Read at least one of them (or both if you choose) then come back here and respond to the following:
1. What seems to be the hardest part of being in a leadership role in Congress?
2. Does leadership really matter when it comes to voting? Does it matter more to a delegate or trustee member? Explain.
3. What do you perceive is needed to keep the party you read about together? Explain.
Hopefully we will settle into a normal week and dig into to the legislative process by the end of this week! One of the most difficult part of the unit on Congress is the vocabulary. Filibuster, cloture, gerrymandering, pigeonholing, pork barrel projects, earmarks, logrolling--OH MY! This week will will study earmarks and pork barrel projects in the budget. Here is what I would like you to do:
1. Go to the site below and choose a category to study.
2. Read one article under the category you choose.
3. Come back here and "report" what you learned about these wasteful projects:
A. What was the project?
B. Who was responsible for the project? (Name names!)
C. Who did the project help?
D. How much did the project cost?
4. Why do you think these projects pass in the first place?