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School districts, for example, are run by school boards, which can be elected or appointed and are responsible for determining policy issues such as what textbooks the schools can purchase and the ratio of students per teacher. The US Constitution designates all powers not given to the federal government to the states and the people, including those not even thought of yet.

The United States is comprised of 50 states, so 50 state governments exist; however, there are also two state-level governments operating in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.

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State governments are modelled similarly to the federal government system and include three branches:. All governors are elected through popular vote typically every four years ; the other positions are elected in some states and appointed in others. Legislative branch: Each state has its own legislature wherein the elected members can propose bills to become law, raise taxes and receive proposals for legislation from the governor.

It plays the same role as does the legislature in the federal system. Judiciary: This system deals with state constitutional issues and statutes laws made by the legislative assembly , as well as US constitutional issues and statutes. The kinds of cases heard by these courts include most criminal cases, personal injuries, family law marriage, divorce and so on , and most contract and probate wills and estates of dead people cases. Unlike the multiple numbers of local and state governments, only one federal government exists. And its role is to run, not just one small geographic location, but the entire country.

How is power divided in the United States government? - Belinda Stutzman

Its remit ranges from promoting US trade interests throughout the world to providing advice on national security. Currently 11 principal offices exist, including the White House Office. Executive departments: These are cabinet-level offices headed up by a secretary who is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Each of the departments concentrates on particular policy areas and has its own budget and staff. Examples include Department of Defense and Department of Education. Independent executive agencies: These agencies usually perform specialised functions, and are independent from executive control.

Independent regulatory agencies: These agencies also perform specialised duties by administering laws and regulating important industries and businesses that affect the public. They include the Environmental Protection Agency EPA , which protects human health and the natural environment by making and enforcing environmental laws, and the Federal Trade Commission FTC , which regulates business practices and monopolies. It also includes the National Labor Relations Board detailed above.

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Government corporations: These are legal entities established by the federal government to provide public services. Because the power to interpret the Constitution of the United States by the various branches and levels of government is a central component of the American political system, federalism has been defined in different ways at different periods in history:.

Dual federalism s to s : Also known as layer cake federalism , dual federalism refers to a system in which the two levels of government operate separately, and is pretty much the bog-standard definition of how the framers intended it to be interpreted. The powers of government are split between the federal and state levels in order to preserve a balance between the two. Co-operative federalism around to : This system, also called marble cake federalism , implies that the federal and state governments share power equally in order to resolve common problems collectively and was popular all the way through the Great Depression, the Second World War, the Cold War and up until the s.

During these testing times, the country needed the two levels of government to work together.

Creative federalism approximately to : Also known as picket fence federalism , creative federalism allows the federal government to decide what the states need, and then provide them with the resources. One principal vehicle for this shift was to remove the conditionality on federally provided block grants to enable states to choose how to prioritise what they should be spent on.


The three branches are:. The executive branch is the part of the government that the president is a part of, acting as the face of America along with his cabinet, vice president and bureaucratic agencies from the White House. The bills, or potential laws, that the legislative branch creates are either accepted or vetoed by the president and carried out by the president and his or her many bureaucracies. If the president vetoes a bill instead of signing it into law, it goes back to Congress for a vote to override the veto.

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Think of the bill as a kid that has to ask permission from both of its parents to go out. Additionally, the president nominates individuals to serve on the Supreme Court, usually ones of the same political mentality as the president. The president serves at least one four-year term and may be elected for a second term, but no more after that. The legislative branch is located in Congress, which is made up of two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Politics for beginners

The legislative branch creates laws that pass through several layers of committees and review before being voted on by both houses of Congress and, if it passes, the president. The House of Representatives currently has members, each of whom represents a district from the state that they are voting on behalf of. More populous states like California and Texas have more representatives than less populated states like Alaska and Wyoming.

Even though the Senate only has 50 members, each state is still represented with two members from each.

US politics 101: The American political system explained

Representatives serve 2 year terms while senators serve 6 year terms, and can be elected into office as many times as their voters want. If a certain house in Congress has a majority of one political party over another, it is said that the political party has control over the house, which means that bill that align with their views will most likely get passed despite members of opposing political parties voting against it.

The legislative branch also act as the money-holders of the American budget, since they delegate governmental funds. If Congress was a parent and government programs were its children, Congress gives big and small allowances to its children.

American Politics: A Beginner's Guide by Jon Roper

And if they misappropriate their funds, kind of like if they use their gas money to buy Slurpees, Congress can give more money to other programs instead. The judicial branch is made up of American courts, the most powerful being the Supreme Court. The justices use the Constitution as their Bible for interpreting whether or not laws and actions are allowable.