Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lacking oversight

One of the fundamental tools of our government is the system of checks and balances between the three branches. Ideally, no one branch is supposed to be able to supercede it's powers or the powers of the other branches because they're held in check by the other two branches, not to mention the people.

However, we have seen a very disheartening trend when it comes to congressional oversight in the last few years. Specifically, the Government Accountability Office, which is the watchdog group that tracks down wasteful spending in Congress, has been systematically defunded by Congress for years. The irony here is that, the group this organization watches holds its purse strings, and has been tightening them, effectively making the GAO ineffective at its job.

This is a trend we've seen in other realms as well. Look at what recently happened with the SCJ's Scalia and Thomas: they were seen being wined and dined by groups that oppose the health care bill that they will be hearing arguments on soon; they helped pass down the CU ruling, the biggest giveaway to corporate political interests in decades; and they've disrupted the ability for American workers to organize class-action lawsuits to take on employers.

And the Executive branch is by no means immune. Bush became (in)famous for his liberal use of signing statements, issuing well over 100 of them over his terms in office. He used these to essentially negate legislation that was brought to his desk (he did not veto a single bill until 2006, six years after taking office). His use of signing statements was similar to the now-defunct power to use a line-item veto. Coupled with Bush and Obama's use of executive orders, the Executive Branch has been expanding its reach considerably in the last few years.

Without oversight, and with a complete lack of accountability to each other, the branches of government have been granting themselves incredible powers. This is not some push to get back a bare-bones government, but a call to say that we need a government that recognizes appropriate development over time. It's own power is not the goal; the goal is the wellness and prosperity of the nation as a whole. Government must provide certain services, must have certain parts to it that are not covered in the constitution, and must serve the people in ways that the founding fathers did not foresee at the time they wrote the constitution. However, the three branches of government must keep their power in check. They must concede that they do not have the authority to eliminate a group that oversees them to prevent waste and fraud. They must let go of powers that circumvent the natural process of legislation we have in America. And they must abandon vehemently partisan politics in lieu of supporting the American people in a comprehensive, reasonable fashion. No one benefits from polarized government any more than they benefit from a government that is completely self-interested.

Government is meant to work for the people, be comprised of the people, and be supported by the people. When we get back to that ideal, we will have come a long way to bringing America back into prominence and prosperity.

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