Government in the US … Research Paper
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¶ … Government Does Well
And what it could do better
It is difficult to maintain a completely objective view of the function of government in the United States due to the fact that the political spectrum has become so polarized. Much of the function of government seems to be driven more by ideology than actual outcomes. However, taken objectively, the U.S. is still one of the greatest nations in the world by many accounts and it is reasonable to believe that the government has played a role in shaping the country's trajectory throughout its adolescent existence. This analysis will attempt to identify three of the things that government has done that help make this country the economic and cultural powerhouse that it is today, as well as three things that it could likely do better.
One of the United States greatest assets has to be its military. Although this is undoubtedly a controversial role that the government plays, it is argued that the U.S. military is an extremely high functioning organization. Furthermore, most of the criticisms are related to the policies and objectives in which the military is tasked to embark upon, not the actual organization itself. For example, although the military has been used for questionable purposes historically, such as the real motives behind the Vietnam War for instance, the bulk of criticisms deal with the policy objectives rather than the actual effectiveness and efficiency of the military as an organization.
The argument could also be made that an excessive amount of the U.S.'s GDP is dedicated to the organization. However, this is also a policy decision that is typically made by external leaders. Despite these possible objections, if you look at the capabilities of the military itself, it's quiet impressive. For example, the level of technology is almost unfathomable. One specific example that was found is a tank that has a virtual force field that can defend against incoming RPG missiles (Collins, 2016).
Figure 1 - Force Field Technology (Collins, 2016)
Similar innovation can be found across the board. From aviation and the Air Force, to the Nobel Winning chemists that work in the Navy Research Lab, it would be hard to argue against the fact that the U.S. Military organizations are among the most advanced in the world.
Another function of the U.S. government that it does well is the regulation of the economy. Again, such an argument could find a polarized reception, however if you look at the situation objectively then it is easy to find evidence that the U.S. economy has function relatively well on the whole. Furthermore, this level of economic stability has only been possible because of the limits that the government has placed upon the economy overall.
Although the economy has certainly seen its share of hard times, the regulatory conventions have provided a framework that has also shown significant resilience. One recent example could be the Fed's use of "operation twist" to stabilize the economy after the last "Great" recession. The Fed was entirely out of options with any available policy tools since they have kept interest rates at historic lows (Reuters, 2011). In September 2012, with joblessness stubbornly high, the bank began snapping up $85 billion a month in Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities named "QE3" and unlike earlier rounds, the Fed's purchase plan was described as open-ended, with officials saying it would continue until the labor market "improved substantially (Kearns, 2015)." While many skeptics predicted hyperinflation and other doomsday scenarios, the economy was able to avoid such self-destruction and eventually stabilize due to the creativity and bold policies.
The final function of government in the U.S. that has been identified to be positive, contrary to much popular opinion, has been the admiration of Health and Human Services (HSS). Once again, this argument is not based on the policy objectives or political components of the services that the U.S. provides to the more marginalized segments of the population. Rather, the argument focuses on the efficiency and the effectiveness of the organization that meets these objectives. The U.S. health care system is objectively on of the more dysfunction end of the spectrum when compared to other industrialized countries. For example, the U.S. spends six times as much per capita on health care administration as the average of all the OECD nations (Krugman, 2009). Yet despite this hostile environment, the public administration of health care has shown the ability to manage public plans for less than 2% of expenditures, while the private market counter parts are averaging roughly 11% by comparison (Krugman, 2009).
While the U.S. has many well-functioning sections of the government, there are also many extraordinary failures. Probably the most blatant example of this is the criminal justice system. The system is so dysfunction in fact that organizations like Alternet publish annual lists of the most spectacular injustices that this system produces including cases such as (Flatow, 2013):
An Alabama blogger is still sitting in a jail cell for exercising his First Amendment rights
A teen spent three years in jail without a conviction or trial
A man who killed an escort for refusing sex was acquitted by a jury
A wealthy teen used the 'Affluenza' defense to skirt jail time for four deaths
It is not only the individual cases that highlight problems that emerge from this system, but the aggregate data also confirms the dysfunction and injustice imposed upon the American people. For example, the U.S. has about five percent of the world's population, yet houses in the neighborhood of the twenty-five percent of the world's prisoners. The system is expansive and houses inmates that could be better served through alternative means.
Another source of contention in the American governmental system would be the way that campaign finances are organized. Under the current system, corporations are considered to have similar rights as people and thus are represented on par with actual citizens. However, the actual situation is far worse. Technically known as independent expenditure-only committees, super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates (Center for Responsible Politics, N.d.). This system effectively gives a greater voice to citizens that have more monetary resources.
For example, super PACs are currently playing a large role in the democratic primaries for both parties in this election season. Despite the fact that (at the time of writing) Donald Trump has a clear lead in the Republican primaries, many individuals within the Republican party are rallying against Trump for various reasons. Many of his opponents, mainly Cruz and Kasich, are strategizing against Trump winning the majority of Republican delegates and super PACs are playing a large role in the efforts.
"Trusted Leadership PAC has added a pro-Ted Cruz spot to the television buy in Indiana and will be keeping the Kasich BFF ad on air in the state as we attempt to win every possible vote for Senator Cruz," Conway, director of research and media outreach, said in a statement."
For other groups, the non-aggression pact confirmed strategies already in place and The Club for Growth, which has reserved $1.5 million in advertising in Indiana, was airing an ad urging anti-Trump voters to back Cruz well before Cruz and Kasich reached their accord (Berg, 2016). The flooding of money into these key states can have a large influence and sway the public opinions towards private interests and corrupt the very foundation of democracy.
Finally, the final critical argument against the U.S. governmental system would be the level of political participation in the system. Many demographics feel alienated and some are subjected to voter ID laws that further diminish turnouts. For example, recently, The New York Times estimated that the midterm elections were at the lowest levels in many decades; in 43 states, less than half of the eligible population bother to vote and no state was able to break the sixty percent voter turnout (Editorial Board, 2014). The democratic system arguably works best when the citizens of the nation actually participate in the process. However, since such a small percentage of Americans are involved in this process, it is reasonable to suspect that millions are not being fairly represented by the system.
Furthermore, despite the fact that many people simply feel disenfranchised from the system, there have been many efforts, in the form of voting restriction legislation, to actively prevent some demographics from being able to participate in the democratic process. In 2016, 17 states will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election. The new laws range from strict photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to registration restrictions; these 17 states are: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin (Justice, 2016). Such laws disproportionally affect certain demographics such as minority communities and the elderly because they typically have… [END OF PREVIEW]
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