By Mary Carlman - Republican
Back to basics … Our federal government has three parts. They are: Executive, (President and governmental employees); Legislative (Senate and House of Representatives) and Judicial (Supreme Court and lower Courts).
From Civics class, we all know that the President of the United States administers the Executive Branch of our government and signs into law the bills sent to him by Congress. The Legislative Branch (Congress) makes our country’s laws; is divided into 2 parts consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Judicial part of our federal government includes the Supreme Court and 9 Justices. They are special judges who interpret laws according to the Constitution.
We’ve heard from news reports, magazine articles, social networking, internet sites and other communications that this election is the most important in years. Our choice this November is (1) a more conservative, restoration path to the future, or (2) a path with more redistribution policies and increasing national debt. If Mitt Romney is elected President, he is going to need the support of all Republicans voted into office to get items moved through the Legislative Branch. Currently Congress is deadlocked with bills being passed in the House then tabled when reaching the Senate. There has been very little compromise in the last four years. On the same concept, state level elected Republican officials will the need support of their state elected fellow conservatives.
As far as supporting Republican positions, a voter needs only to compare the two political platforms. For a select few: ABORTION – Republicans are pro-life, support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Constitution’s protections apply to unborn children.; GUN CONTROL – Republicans uphold the right of individuals to keep and bear arms as per Second Amendment; TAXES – Republicans propose to cut taxes and simplify the tax system; ENERGY – Republicans are committed to domestic energy independence by using our resources under our soil and seas; SOCIAL SECURITY – Republicans want to allow citizens to control their own money and investments; SOCIAL SPENDING – Republicans want to decrease or maintain programs urging citizens to seek work not welfare; TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE – Republicans believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman, must be upheld as the national standard; NATIONAL SECURITY – increase not decrease military spending; REPEAL OBAMACARE which per the Supreme Court ruling is a tax. The complete platform may be found at www.gop.com. It’s a 62 page document of good policies, morals and values that America needs to return to.
Why should we support Republican positions? America is at risk with threats of terrorism, the Middle East has turned into a mess, fiscal doom for our country is on the horizon, redistribution and social justice will lead to a form of socialism. If you have ever visited a third world country, you would not hesitate to support Republican positions.
America is heading in the wrong direction under our present leadership. It is time for REAL change not just some mythical vague slogan. Vote for a Republican President that will be supported by a Republican House and Senate.
Why Support the Democratic Party?
by Craig Tallent - Democrat
Gerry introduced this forum with the comment that the format has "helped keep the tone of the debate civil and professional." While "civil and professional" are quite appropriate for this forum, heated differences between contentious parties have characterized the history of the American political debate. Since the beginning, this argument centered on the central issue of the role of the federal government, the reach of its influence, and the division of power between state and national governments.
This issue began with the Founding Fathers. Having recently usurped the power of a king, the Founders designed, with considerable disagreement, Articles of Confederation to protect against too much central authority. The lack of central authority produced chaos, so the Constitutional Convention convened in order to charter a stronger, more effective government. Again, no easy solutions materialized among the divergent and conflicting views of the Founders. After five months of vigorous argument and angry disputes that almost destroyed the process, a final compromise emerged. This document, our Constitution, though finally ratified by the states, by no means ended the controversy. Three short years later, the divergent opinions that characterized the Constitutional Convention bitterly clashed again over the establishment of a national bank. Although the courts upheld the legality of such an institution, the rival factions split into competing political parties, and such has been the nature of our union ever since.
As the nation grew, Senator Henry Clay led a political coalition promoting a design of national planning called "the American System." Clay advocated a strong and active national government to promote national prosperity by using federal power toward increasing commerce and expanding the frontier. His system was opposed by John C. Calhoun, who opposed increasing federal power and instead promoted a states’ rights agenda called "sectionalism." The issue of a state’s right to nullify federal laws motivated Calhoun to lead the South out of the union at the beginning of the American Civil War.
Beginning in 1877, the industrial development known as The Gilded Age, the issue of federal power was overshadowed by a surge in the unprecedented wealth of large business monopolies. The emergence of this block of financial power introduced the issue of big business and its influence on all levels of government. This new influx of power also suppressed, for approximately thirty years, the steady growth of federal influence. The Gilded Age was characterized by a laissez-faire economic climate and the popularity of the theory of social Darwinism; therefore, big business presumed the right to make money without government oversight, and any consequential social damage was regarded as a natural process of the economy.
The Gilded Age ended with the national government’s activism during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. With TR’s leadership, the federal government broke up monopolies controlled by powerful business interests. The federal government expanded through the Department of Commerce and Labor, the Meat Inspection Act, the Federal Food and Drug Act, and the Hepburn Railway Act, all federal efforts to provide oversight for big business. TR further expanded national influence by promoting conservation of resources and establishing a vast system of national parks.
The national government’s influence expanded further under Woodrow Wilson with the establishment of the Federal Reserve Bank, Federal Trade Commission, Clayton Antitrust Act, Adamson Act (to mandate an 8 hour work day for some workers), and Child Labor Act. Taxes also increased for the higher levels of wealth.
The next president, Calvin Coolidge, saying "the business of America was business," relaxed government oversight during the business boom of the 1920’s. Although some advisors warned him against the increasing speculation and expansion in the stock market, he felt that economic forces would be "self-correcting." In spite of the business boom, agricultural prices fell and remained low. Coolidge vetoed two agriculture relief bills, again believing in a self-correcting process.
Herbert Hoover, in the face of the Great Depression that followed Coolidge’s presidency, attempted a variety of federal interventions such as the Agricultural Marketing Act (attempting to improve prices), Reconstruction Finance Organization (attempting to prevent bank failures), and Bureau of Reclamation (for public works, such as Hoover Dam, public buildings, highways, etc.).
The Depression continued unabated, leading to the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who introduced an extensive series of federal intervention programs called the New Deal aimed at agriculture, banking, public works, unemployment, and social reform. These programs were dropped, changed, expanded, or replaced by other programs during FDR’s presidency, with the Social Security Administration, intending a secure income for the elderly, remaining the best known. Beyond any previous government involvements, these programs expanded the role of the federal government into most sectors of the economy and public affairs.
Following FDR, Harry Truman had limited success expanding the New Deal with his proposed Fair Deal agenda. However, his successor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, established the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, broadened Social Security, increased minimum wage, sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce court ordered school de-segregation, and began building the Interstate Highway System.
John F. Kennedy proposed, but did not complete, federal legislation on civil rights. These programs became law after his vice-president, Lyndon B. Johnson, became president. LBJ completed civil rights acts concerning the right to service in businesses serving the public and the rental and sale of housing. The Voting Rights Act aimed at voter discrimination was also passed. Two new executive branches, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation were added to the federal government. Medicare, a health insurance plan for the elderly, was also added.
Richard Nixon removed some long standing tax benefits for oil companies, introduced a revenue sharing plan to distribute federal money to states, introduced the Environmental Protection Agency, and proposed a national health insurance plan that failed to materialize when his presidency became bogged down in Watergate.
Later, President Ronald Reagan increased Social Security benefits, President George H.W. Bush amended the Clean Air Act to strengthen its regulations and signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. George W. Bush launched an initiative to fight AIDS in Africa and expanded federal influence in education through the No Child Left Behind program.
This brief history is by no means complete, and by no means attempts to evaluate any of the examples presented. The salient features of these examples show that the federal government was not created with a unified vision of the government’s expansion, but expansion has been, except for several interludes, steady across history, has continued under several political parties, and results in a large federal government that is thoroughly involved in many aspects of American life. The most recent history, since it is the most stressed issue of the current election, has not been reviewed in order to avoid any of the vitriol that has accompanied the recent campaigns.
During the last year, Republicans have campaigned against the expansion of the federal government, picking and choosing from history to suggest simple black and white truths regarding that topic. Even so, the past does not contain a definitive clarification of the right or wrong of this issue. History suggests that the present state of our government is nothing other than the gradual accumulation of the will of the electorate. By the same process, the electorate can reduce the government, and here arises a question that the last year’s Republican campaign fails to answer: Replace the government’s influence with what?
Most Republican opposition to the present state of the government can be summarized by two points of view expressed during the campaign. First, "shrink the government until it’s small enough to drown in a bathtub." Next, the alternative, once the government has been thus disposed, is "the market." Whether or not the government is too big, its expanded function cannot be removed without some substantial alternative. The market, a product of human behavior, is not a natural phenomenon like gravity, subject to scientific laws. It is the result of human behavior, human decisions, and human discretion. As the meltdown of 2008 illustrates, it does not always act according to its own self-interest or that of the public.
Such blind faith in the market also ignores that unregulated, unsupervised business activity may or may not benefit the average citizen, but it has historically contributed to the aggregation of extreme blocks of financial power by large corporations. When, in the face of vast financial power, government power retreats from the public arena, government becomes a protective partisan of the most elite sector of wealth. Historically, this sector has advanced its interest without regard for the larger public.
A government formed on a rejection of the nation’s political past will face difficulty finding common ground with the existing reality of the government’s complexity. The Founders learned that equilibrium was achieved through balance, compromises that enabled a competitive give and take. This election will probably be won or lost on the closest of margins, yet the Republican party has campaigned on the narrowest of rigid proposals. A government based on a categorical rejection of the accumulations of its own tradition is unlikely to develop the critical mass necessary to govern.