Category Archives: Federal Bureaucracy

The Self-Sufficiency of States?

Chattanooga Times Free Press: Clay Bennett Cartoons – Power Restored

Americans like to complain about and question the role of government. However, when disaster strikes, Americans, who once scoffed at the idea of federal services, are typically the very people demanding federal assistance from government agencies like FEMA.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, works together with state and local emergency management officials to coordinate governmental responses to disasters that overwhelm the resources of local and state authorities in the United States. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, FEMA can provide food, water, shelter and medical assistance for disaster victims as well as longer-term recovery assistance through low-interest loans to businesses and homeowners. FEMA has been involved in recovery efforts following natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires, and following man-made disasters, such as the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003 and the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Nevertheless, half the country truly believes the government, specifically the federal government, is never the solution and always the problem. Yet, they were silent during the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003, the September 11th terrorist attacks, the destruction caused by hurricanes Katrina, Irene, Issac, and now the inevitable devastation of hurricane Sandy. Moreover, the governor of any state impacted by a disaster will only receive assistance if they, not the federal governement, first declare a state of emergency and formally request from the president that FEMA and the federal government respond to the disaster. Not surprisingly, all governors representing states impacted by the aforementioned hurricanes jumped at the opportunity for federal assistance despite the fact that some have openly questioned the purpose and function of such services in the past.

The above Clay Bennett political cartoon raises serious questions concerning the function of government and federal services. Is government the solution or the problem? Is there any state in the union that is truly self-sufficient?

–TERRANCE MULLINS

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Government is the Problem, Not the Solution?

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Federal Emergency Management Agency (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, works together with state and local emergency management officials to coordinate governmental responses to disasters that overwhelm the resources of local and state authorities  in the United States.  In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, FEMA can provide food, water, shelter and medical assistance for disaster victims as well as longer-term recovery assistance through low-interest loans to businesses and homeowners. FEMA has been involved in recovery efforts following natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires, and following man-made disasters, such as the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003 and the September 11th terrorist attacks.

However, half the country believes the government, specifically the federal government, is never the solution and always the problem. Yet, they were silent during the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003, the September 11th terrorist attacks, the destruction caused by hurricane Irene, and now the inevitable devistation of hurrican Issac. Moreover, the governor of any state impacted by a disaster will only receive assistance if they declare a state of emergency and formally request from the president that FEMA and the federal government respond to the disaster. Not surprisingly, all the governors representing states impacted by hurricane Issac have accepted the serviced of the federal government despite the fact that some have openly questioned the purpose and function of such services in the past.  Clay Bennett posted a cartoon on his blog with timesfreepress.com which raises a serious question concerning the function of government and federal assistance.  Is government the solution or the problem? Is there a state in the union that is truly self-sufficient?

–TERRANCE MULLINS

The Tool of Taxation

Old hammer during reconstruction of the buildi...

Old hammer during reconstruction of the building in Pleszew. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In graduate school a professor of mine often referred to the “toolbox of government.”  The characterization must have resonated with me because I still use it in my own classes almost fifteen years later.  Of course he was referring to the variety of actions that governments at all levels have at their disposal to implement and otherwise enforce public policy.  For our purposes we can narrow the contents of the “toolbox” down to the bare minimum:

  • The power of government to deprive a person of liberty (think incarceration and in the most extreme form, the death penalty)—the hammer.
  • The power of government to deprive a person of property (think real property and money)—the hammer.

Confused?  Don’t be.  Chief Justice John Marshall (1801-1835) is credited with expressing the position that the power to tax is the power to destroy.  In this regard the power to tax is the power to punish those who violate the law, ignore regulations, or otherwise challenge the general welfare—the hammer.  The power to tax citizens and residents, businesses, corporations, is generally available to most governments—from Congress to your local water district.  Check your text books, one of the first concurrent or shared powers listed is the power to tax.  Moreover, taxes are ubiquitous—fees: taxes; assessments: taxes; dues: taxes; levies: taxes; taxes: taxes.  The power to tax is the power of government to deprive.

In the months following the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (Obama-care) , much will be made of the taxation aspect of the now upheld health care reform package—especially the individual mandate, which requires people capable of paying for health insurance to do so or risk a penalty (tax).  What do you think, is it the most intrusive tax ever devised by government (in this case by democrats)?  Is it a new tax?  Is it a tax increase (even though it only applies to people who don’t buy their own health insurance—and wouldn’t we otherwise call these people free-riders or equate them to people who don’t buy car insurance and drive up all of our rates)?  With all the hammers we get hit with every day, is this the one we’re really going to object to?  Ouch!  I know how to fix it; where’s my hammer?!

–DENNIS FALCON

Weekly Poll: Your Opinion on Birth Control for Women

Recent controversies surround the new health care law requiring employer health plans to provide birth control coverage as part of preventive health services for women. What do you think?

Weekly Quiz: Test Yourself on this Week’s Events

The weekly quiz is now live in Mypoliscilab. Good luck!

Weekly Poll: Your Opinion on Obama’s Proposal to Consolidate Federal Agencies

Some political observers think President Obama’s proposal to consolidate six federal government agencies is a political move. What do you think?

Whose Bureaucracy is it?

Article II of the United States Constitution provides the President with the power to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.  Through the years the executive branch has grown into a complicated assortment of federal departments and agencies employing almost three million civilian personnel.  For most federal employees their work consist in implementing the policies and programs developed by Congress—from making sure that the meat we eat is safe to providing for the movement of mail across the country and abroad.

The organization of the executive branch has remained relatively stable through the years with the creation of Cabinet level departments following large-scale national events like the attacks of September 11, 2011, and the creation of various agencies and commissions intended to serve some new or reinvented government purpose.  President Obama’s recent decision to elevate the Small Business Administration to a Cabinet level Department is a case in point.  The lingering and problematic economic downturn affecting the U.S. economy has put tremendous pressure on the President and Congress to act.  In this case the President is using his executive powers to reorganize the federal bureaucracy (see Hayley Peterson’s response and others in the Washington Examiner for more information).  What do you think, is the President acting in accordance with his Article II powers?  Should the President have more authority over how executive branch employees do their jobs, or should Congress ultimately set the limits to this authority?

–DENNIS FALCON