Category Archives: State and Local Government

Weekly Poll: Your Opinion About the Future of the Country

President Obama was reelected, Republicans retain control of the House while Democrats retain control of the Senate; as a result some think that nothing really changed in U.S. politics. What do you think?

Weekly Poll: Your Opinion on this Year’s Presidential Race

Although the economy is still the most important issue among many voters, a recent USA Today/Gallup poll in key swing states shows women ranked abortion as their number one issue. What do you think?

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

Weekly Poll: Your Opinion on Romney’s Favorability

The conventions are built as campaign boosters for presidential candidates but some wonder if voters’ opinion of Mitt Romney will substantially change after the Republican National Convention. What do you think?

Weekly Quiz: Test Yourself on this Week’s Events

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

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

Purges and Repubican Forms of Government

Vote Oregon!

Vote Oregon! (Photo credit: jugbo)

According to the Constitution of the United States individual states are required to provide to their citizens a republican form of government.  The guarantee of a republican form of government in the Constitution is vague, but it provides a wide door for rights related to voting, representative-based government, and the sovereignty of the people in all fifty states.  The clause in the Constitution is also used as a foundation for each state to organize and conduct all elections in a state, whether the elections are for local, state, and even federal offices.

The state of Florida is currently involved in a legal dispute with the federal government over the issue of voter registration rolls.  The state of Florida is arguing that it has the right to purge voter registration rolls of names of persons not eligible to vote in Florida elections.  The state is arguing that it has the right to establish voter qualifications that do not directly deny citizens of the United States their fundamental right to vote and that maintaining voter registration rolls that are accurate and based on state law includes taking reasonable steps to protect their integrity.  In the current dispute, the federal government is arguing that the state of Florida recently purged properly registered voters from the rolls causing citizens of the United States to be denied their right to vote simply because they have the same name as a person who is ineligible to vote.  Both sides of the dispute are well-grounded in law, precedent, and practice—unfortunately, the specters or partisanship and electoral self-interest are seen at work on both sides as well.  The current dispute is about to peak in the middle of a presidential election year in a well-known battle ground state.  Do you believe the issue can be addressed by the courts impartially?  Do you think the current dispute is a legitimate clash of opinions and positions or a side-show of the election season we are watching unfold?

–DENNIS FALCON