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Maria Tobolewska


The People of the USA The USA has a population of 314.7 million according to the UN in 2009, the Census Bureau projects a US population of 439 million in 2050. In America women are expected to live for 81 years and men living for 77 years. 81% live in cities and suburbs America has a GNP per capita of US $47,580 as of a report from the World Bank in 2008. People under 20 years of age make up 27.6% of the population, making up over a quarter of the US population. The largest race majority are white alone, making up 75% of the population with 228.2 million people, second to that are the Hispanic or Latino ethnicity with a percentage of 15.4% making up 46.9 million of the population.

Population density of the USA A report by the US Census Bureau in August 2008 stated that non-Hispanic whites will no longer constitute the majority of the population by 2042. The report predicts a 15% rise in the Hispanic and Latino population of America, as well as a 4% rise in the African American population.

The religions of USA are shown in the diagram opposite, with protestant making up the highest amount: 51.3% of the population

Maria Tobolewska


The People of the USA There are several issues facing the American people in their day to day lives, one of the major issues is the lack of suitable low cost and middle income properties, meaning a great divide between the wealthy families and their poorer and middle income counterparts. Another issue is in regard of families. Families are facing problems through a lack of good quality schools in the state sector and unsafe neighbourhoods. This means that families have to spend disproportionate amounts of money on private education and family homes to get their children a good education and a safe environment. As well as this, there are also some fundamental problems in American society, for instance, illiteracy. Nearly one out of two American adults is functionally illiterate, meaning that they can’t read above the 8th-grade level. About one out of every four is completely illiterate, aside from being able to write their own name.

Maria Tobolewska


The USA’s Political System

Foundations of the Federal Government There are two foundations of the United States Federal Government, one being the Declaration of Independence, the second, the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence establishes the United States as an independent political entity; the Constitution creates the basic structure of federal government. In 200 years there have only been 17 constitutional changes. This was meant to be so, the constitution acts as a higher authority, it is incredibly difficult to change, requiring a two-thirds vote of members present in both houses of Congress, and then three quarters of state legislatures have to sanction the change. However much it has its advantages that the constitution is a stoic piece of legislation, it also has its draw backs, one being that the document is not flexible enough to move with the times, which can make government decisions slow and outdated, not keeping track with the fast paced economic and political world. The Second Amendment for example can now be seen to be a challenge, with gun crimes on the rise, giving American’s the right to hold arms seems a ludicrous concept and would not be instated now. However, considering the impenetrability of the constitution it requires too big a majority to be removed.

Boundaries of Power Within the Federal System, there are boundaries to power; the time limit of power in office; the President has a term of four years, Members of the Senate serve for six years and the Members of the House of Representatives are in office for two years. However there are also institutions where the members are exempt from such limits, for instance; Members of the Supreme Court effectively serve for life. Power is also kept under control through the separation of the three institutions of the federal system; the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. No single institution is given infinite power over the others, and no member can be part of both, for instance, if a President is elected from the Senate, they must resign from their position as Senator in order to accept their position as President. Presidential Power The President’s power is also limited, though he is both head of state and government as well as the military commander in chief and chief diplomat he does not hold supreme power. The President is head of a extensive establishment of about 4 million people, including 1 million active-duty military personnel. The President for example is not able to dissolve Congress or call special elections, but does hold the power to pardon those convicted of crimes against the government, enact executive orders, and alongside the consent of the Senate, appoint Supreme Court justices and federal judges. The President does have the authority to sign or veto legislation passed by Congress can propose measures to Congress. The Congress may however countermand a presidential veto but only if it holds a two-thirds majority in each house.

Maria Tobolewska


The USA’s Political System The House of Representatives The House of Representatives (which alongside the Senate constitutes Congress) was intended to be the politically dominant entity of the United States by its founders and in the 18th and 19th centuries was the forum for debate. However, over recent years the senate rose in power, taking over the prevailing government position. The House represents 435 constituencies, all of whom submit a member to serve for a two year term. Seats are based proportionally, with members elected for every 500,000 people, according to the most recent census. Members are mostly elected through the first past the post system; however Louisiana and Washington operate on a run off basis. On years when there is a presidential election also occurring, turnout can reach as high as 50% for Congress voting, however, it can also be a great deal lower. As well as this, the House also has four non elected delegates from; Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands and the District of Colombia. The House operates through 19 standing committees which all perform different functions, though mainly legislative or inspections. The Senate The Senate is a collection of 100 members, two from every state. Though it was first intended to be the least dominant of the houses, it swiftly grew in power overtaking the House of Representatives and can now be seen as one of the most influential institutions in the world. However, the Senate also has great problems. There are two Senators for every state, no matter what size or population, which means that there is a great over representation for states such as Wyoming with a population of 544,270, and a significant under representation of states such as California who has a population of 36,961,664. As well as this there is also under representation of women and ethnic minorities in the Senate which has sparked some controversy. Each member serves a term for 6 years, 4 years longer than that of a Representative member. Most work in the Senate is completed through a system of 16 standing committees; however the Senate also operates a filibuster rule. Any member of the Senate is welcome speak for as long as they wish on a particular topic, unless they are brought to a cloture by 60 of the 100 members, or three fifths of the Senate. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are found on Capitol Hill, one of the most well known political destinations in the world. The Supreme Court The Supreme Court is one the institutions that has sparked the most controversy in the United States, purely for the immense power that they hold. The Supreme Court is devised from 9 Justices, one Chief Justice of the United States alongside 8 Associate Judges.

Maria Tobolewska


The USA’s Political System The Supreme Court is the highest law body in America, and quite possibly the world. The Supreme Court exists to question the Constitutional legitimacy of laws at any level in the government as well as deciding the same of actions of politicians. The Supreme Court also sets laws, for instance, the scope of abortion is set by the Supreme Court however, in other countries it has been set by legislation. Justices in theory serve for life, however they can be removed if they are impeached and then subsequently convicted, or if they chose to resign. The irony of the Supreme Court is that none of the members are elected, having been chosen by the President, and advised by the Senate, and yet they preside over the governing of the United States, a supposedly wholly democratic country. However, though the Supreme Court can be seen as undemocratic, the rest of the judicial system is in theory chosen by the people, with 87% of all state court judges subject to elections. Of the 50 states, 39 elect some of their judges, the only system similar to this is that of smaller Swiss Cantons which elect judges, as well as the Japanese Supreme Court who are supposedly elected, but in fact it is merely a formality. Above District Courts in the system are a collection of Courts of Appeals, and the grouping of all three courts, including the Supreme Court makes up the federal justice system. The Federal System The federal system means that power is divided between the 50 states, all of which have a legislature, executive and judiciary. The head of the executive is the governor who is directly elected by the people through a first past the post system. The legislature is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, meaning all the states are represented through their elected body. The judiciary is on the other hand is compromised of a mixture of different county courts, and laws vary across America, for instance the death penalty is still in action in only some states and in that case it is supposedly in practice only for aggravated murder, felony murder or contract killing. In the United States in 2009 there were 52 executions, these took place in Texas, Alabama, Ohio, Virginia, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri and Indiana. The highest number in these states was Texas, who executed 24 people through lethal injection. There is a continued debate as to the advantages and disadvantages, some agree that the united states federal system puts too much power into the hands of the individual states, others believe that states should be run almost as their own countries, and not be limited by the views of those outside the federal system.

Maria Tobolewska


America’s Leading Politicians Barack Obama Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States was elected in November 2008 after having served as the junior United States Senator for Illinois from January 2005. Barack Obama worked as a civil rights attorney as well as teaching constitutional law at Chicago University Law School until 2004. Obama was inaugurated as President on January 20th 2009 and has since worked on legislation inclosing; the American Recovery and Investment Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as well as beginning the slow process of withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Hillary Clinton Born in October 26th 1947, Hillary Clinton is one of the most powerful and inspiring women in American today. She was elected as US senator in 2000, making her not only the first female senator for the state of New York, but also the only former First Lady to run for the position. Clinton was reflected by a wide margin of 36.1% in 2006. After winning all her primaries and delegates, setting the record for the most won by a female candidate in American history she narrowly lost to Barack Obama. Clinton now holds the position of Secretary of State. Dick Cheney Richard Bruce Cheney acted as the 46th Vice President of the United States serving under George W. Bush from 2001-2009. Not only did Cheney serve as Vice President, but also White House Chief of Staff during the Ford administration and Secretary of Defense during George H.W. Bush’s presidency, presiding over Operation Desert Storm in 1991. John McCain Senator McCain holds the position of senior United States Senator of Arizona and was the Republican nominee in the 2008 Presidential Election. McCain also ran for the Republican nomination against George w. Bush in 2000, but lost against a heated primary contest. He was elected to the Senate in 1986, reflected again in 1992, 1998 and 2004.

Maria Tobolewska


America’s Past Leaders Bill Clinton Bill Clinton born August 19th 1946 was the 42nd President of the United States, his administration running from 1993-2001. Clinton was attributed with a central Third Way version of politics, particularly focused on the North American Free Trade Agreement and various welfare reforms. Clinton was reflected for a second term in 1996 and though suffering controversy and attempted impeachment due to obstruction of justice concerning scandal surrounding his relationship with a White House intern he left office with the highest approval rating since World War II. George W. Bush George Walker Bush became the 43rd President of the USA after serving 5 years as the Governor of Texas. Bush’s administration lasted from 2001-2009. After eight months the September 11th attacks occurred to which Bush retaliated by announcing a Global War on Terror, invading Iraq in 2003. Bush also put through significant tax cuts of – and the No Child Left behind Act among other legislation. Bush’s popularity declined rapidly throughout his second term after the disasters of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and then the recession striking. Jimmy Carter James Earl Carter served from 1977-1981 as the 39th President of the United States and was the only President to receive the Nobel Peace prize after leaving office. Carter was a great advocate of Human Rights as well as foreign affairs seen with his involvement in the Panama Canal Treaties and Strategic Arms Limitation talks. However, Carter’s popularity was fast diminishing and he lost the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan after the hostage of Iranian students, fuel shortages and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan quelled his support. Before becoming President he was both a Georgia State Senator and then a Governor of Georgia. Richard Nixon Richard Nixon was the only President to achieve the roles of both the Presidency (37th) and the Vice President the year before. Nixon was also the only President to resign. The main problem that faced Nixon was that of the Vietnam War, which he originally escalated by incursions into neighbouring countries, however he then negotiated a ceasefire in 1973. Nixon also implemented economic change policies and was reflected in 1978. Nixon resigned due to his involvement in the Watergate Scandal in 1974 on August 9th as impeachment was though to be impending. He was later pardoned

Maria Tobolewska


Sources/Bibliography

Maria Tobolewska


A Political Introduction to America