UNIT 3

UNIT THREE: INSTITUTIONS OF GOVERNMENT 

Students must become familiar with the organization and powers, both formal and informal, of the major political institutions in the United States: the Congress, the presidency, the bureaucracy, and the federal courts. Students should understand that these are separate institutions sharing powers and the implications of that arrangement. The functions these institutions perform and do not perform, as well as the powers that they do and do not possess, are important. It is necessary for students to understand that power balances and relationships between these institutions may evolve gradually or change dramatically as a result of crises. Students are also expected to understand ties between the various branches of national government and political parties, interest groups, the media, and state and local governments. For example, a study of the conflicting interests and powers of the president and Congress may help explain repeated struggles to adopt a national budget.

Public policy is the result of interactions and dynamics among actors, interests, institutions, and processes. The formation of policy agendas, the enactment of public policies by Congress and the president, and the implementation and interpretation of policies by the bureaucracy and the courts are all stages in the policy process with which students should be familiar. Students should also investigate policy networks and issue networks in the domestic and foreign policy areas. The study of these will give students a clear understanding of the impact of federalism, interest groups, parties, and elections on policy processes and policymaking in the federal context. Students should be familiar with major public policies.

Chapter Six  Congress (pg. 168- 203) Learning Objectives:

  • Describe the essential roles and functions of a senator and representative.
  • Examine the role of money in congressional elections where it comes from, how it is used, and what influence or effect it has.
  • Summarize both the advantages and disadvantages of the growing influence of PACs.
  • Contrast organizational style and procedures in the House of Representatives with those of the Senate.
  • Identify the major leadership positions in the House and Senate and summarize the functions of each office.
  • Review the four types of congressional committees and explain how they control the congressional agenda and guide legislation.
  • Determine the significance of legislative procedure like the filibuster and oversight.
  • Outline the process by which a bill would move through the legislative process, from introduction to the point where it is sent to the president.
  • Contrast three theories of the role of a legislator: trustee, instructed delegate, and politico.
  • Appraise the influence of lobbyists and interest groups on the legislative process.
  • Identify both representative and unrepresentative aspects of Congress.
  • Examine the effect that the U.S. Congress has had on the scope of government.

Chapter Seven  The Executive Branch (pg. 204-235) Learning Objectives:

  • Describe the constitutional process of impeachment and explain why it is so difficult to remove a discredited president before the end of his term.
  • Outline the procedures established in the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to deal with presidential succession and presidential disability.
  • Trace the evolution of the presidency from the limited office envisioned by the framers to the more powerful contemporary office.
  • Identify the major offices and positions that serve as key aides and advisors to the president.
  • Examine the ways in which the American system of separation of powers is actually one of shared powers.
  • Review methods by which presidents may improve their chances of obtaining party support in Congress.
  • Summarize the constitutional powers that are allocated to the president in the realm of national security.
  • Identify and review major roles and functions of the president, such as chief executive, chief legislator, commander in chief, and crisis manager.
  • Determine the role that public opinion plays in setting and implementing the presidents agenda.
  • Describe the methods used by presidents and their advisors to encourage the media to project a positive image of the presidents activities and policies.
  • Examine the impact that changing world events (such as the transition from the 1950s and 1960s to the era of Vietnam and Watergate) have had on public debate over whether a strong president is a threat or a support to democratic government.

Chapter Eight: The Federal Bureaucracy (pp. 460-503) Learning Objectives:

  • Explain the development of the American bureaucracy from the spoils system to the merit system.
  • Describe the functions of the four basic types of federal agencies: cabinet departments, regulatory agencies, government corporations, and independent executive agencies. Identify three agencies within each.
  • Evaluate the effects that the movement toward deregulation has had on the American economy.
  • Explain how presidents and Congress independently try to control the bureaucracy.
  • Explain the role of bureaucracies in the iron triangle.
  • How does the bureaucracy act to implement the intent of Congress?

Chapter Nine "Judiciary"   Learning Objectives:

  • Explain why the American judicial system is called an adversarial system.
  • Identify the major actors in the judicial system and explain their functions and responsibilities.
  • Describe the functions of federal district courts, court of appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Summarize judicial selection procedures for federal judges and justices.
  • Discuss the backgrounds of judges and justices.
  • Describe the role of the courts as policymakers.
  • Summarize procedure in the U.S. Supreme Court, including the discuss list, oral argument, the conference, and opinion writing.
  • Explain the importance of opinion writing at the Supreme Court level and describe the different types of opinions.
  • Identify factors used by the Supreme Court in deciding which cases to accept for review.
  • Analyze the contrasting positions of judicial restraint and judicial activism.
  • Trace the historical evolution of the policy agenda of the Supreme Court.
  • Examine the ways in which American courts are both democratic and undemocratic institutions

Chapter Sixteen: pp. 480-515 “Domestic Policy" 

  1. What is meant by “defensive medicine”? 
  2. In what ways is access to health insurance unequal in the United States? 
  3. List four groups that are involved in health care policies in the United States.
  4. What are the four most important sources of energy in the Untied States and problems for each?
  5. What is meant by the “nondegradation” standard?
  6. List the main provisions of the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, and Endangered Species Act of 1973.
  7. What has been the primary argument of opponents of strict environmental law?

Chapter Seventeen: “Economic Policy” (pg. 516-548)

  1. Briefly explain how the unemployment rate is measured.
  2. What are the three basic instruments available to the Federal Reserve System for controlling the money supply? 
  3. Identify two theories of fiscal policymaking and explain the differences including partisan connection. 
  4. List three reasons why it is difficult to precisely control unemployment and inflation.
  5. Briefly explain the technological, sociological and political explanations for the productivity slowdown since 1973. 
  6. List four ways in which the government benefits business. 
  7. How do the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) benefit consumers? 
  8. What were the main provisions of the National Labor Relations Act and the Taft-Hartley Act? 
  9. What are some of the main flaws of a command economy? 
  10. What is the main difference between the liberal and conservative view of the scope of government in economic policymaking?

Chapter Eighteen: “Social Welfare Policymaking” (pp. 459-474)

  1. Is the income distribution across America, even or unequal? Why?
  2. How does the U.S. Bureau of the Census define poverty?
  3. What is the role of government in affecting those above and below the “poverty line”?
  4. Briefly explain the difference between the conservative and liberal arguments as to why some people are poor.
  5. What are the three types of taxes and how can each affect citizens income?
  6. Make a list of three entitlement programs and three means-tested programs.
  7. What is the difference between an entitlement program and a means-tested program and why are entitlement programs so popular and means-tested so controversial?
  8. What is the difference between the poor and the elderly in terms of their ability to influence social welfare policy? 
  9. In what ways has social welfare policy increased the scope of government?
  10. How does the federal government give money to its citizens? 
  11. What was the purpose of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996? Why did the Democrats approve such
  12. legislation even though it ran counter to its platform?
  13. What is the underlying problem to Social Security?
  14. What are three benefits one is entitled to from Social Security?
  15. What are three reforms advocated to fixing the Social Security dilemma?
  16. What are the three types of tools that foreign policies ultimately depend on?
  17. List three consequences of a balance of trade deficit.
  18. Does the US have a balanced or imbalance of trade?  Explain.
  19. Why does the US hand out foreign aid?
  20. What three international organizations can assist a president in implementing his foreign policy 
  21. What are three national security agencies available to the president?
  22. What is the role of Congress in making foreign policy?
  23. How many countries belong to the nuclear weapons club? Why is that a concern?
  24. What was the primary difference between President Carter and President Reagan in the area of foreign policy decision-making and advice?
  25. What is the purpose of the National Security Council?
  26. What type of foreign policies was followed during the era of détente?
  27. What is meant by the “peace dividend”?
  28. What is the triad of nuclear weapons that the United States relies on for national defense?
  29. American Policy Overview: Briefly sketch US foreign policy in the four eras.
  • Isolationism
  • Containment Doctrine
  • Détente
  • Unilateral Action


The Budget 

  • What is the purpose of a budget?
  • What are three sources of Federal revenue?
  • How is a deficit different from a debt?
  • Why do politicians have a difficult time balancing the budget?
  • What is the difference between income taxes and social insurance taxes?
  • Describe four tax loopholes.
  • How do tax cuts impact the federal budget? Which political party has traditionally been in favor of tax cuts?
  • What are the top three expenditures for the federal government?
  • Why does social service spending continue to rise?
  • What is the difference between Social Security and Medicare?
  • Why are many components of social service spending considered to beuncontrollable expenditures?
  • Describe the ten major players in the annual budgetary battle?
  • How is the federal government different from state governments when it comes to handling debt?
  • How come President Clinton was able to create budget surpluses but President Bush has pursued deficit spending?
  • Why do political pundits often say, Congress controls the purse?

 


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