Preventing Dictator Trump: Judicial Review and Separation of Powers

An important principle of our constitution that set ups our government is that of separation of powers. It is a part of checks and balances. Separation of powers has always been a hot topic especially in the Supreme Court. It keeps our government running smoothly. It helps determine the jurisdiction of each branch of government. In order to understand the separation of powers, you have to understand Judicial Review. In middle and high school history the concept of separation of powers and judicial review is taught. Mainly because it’s on the regents. Many students sort of zone out on it because it’s not all that interesting. Once again I want to take two Supreme Court cases and review them. After briefly reviewing each, I want to put some modern context on the separation of powers and judicial review. Let’s just say when an election rolls around with a controversial president being elected, my mind goes to thinking about how the constitution allows for checks and balances that keeps our democratic president from becoming a dictator. It’s really petty to blame the election results on Russia or voter fraud. A choice was made and we should deal with it by invoking the constitution. Without further or do, I want to present Marbury vs. Madison.

Marbury vs. Madison was decided by the court in 1803 by the Marshall Court. It was unanimous decision. Now you might remember some of the facts of case from high-school. If you don’t then I suggest you read up on it here. Like usual, I want to skip directly to the questions of the case and the majority opinion. The court had to decide whether or not the officers had the right to go court over the commissions and  whether or not Section 13 of the Judiciary Act was valid? The court held that because Adams had signed the commissions they were legal and should have been given out despite Jefferson’s order to not give them out. They also voided Section 13 of the Judiciary Act because it interfered with Article 3 section 2 of the constitution. The Court had an obligation to uphold the constitution over the congressional law. Here was what the Judiciary Act, section 13 says :

That the Supreme Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction of all controversies of a civil nature, where a state is a party, except between a state and its citizens; and except also between a state and citizens of other states, or aliens, in which latter case it shall have original but not exclusive jurisdiction. And shall have exclusively all such jurisdiction of suits or proceedings against ambassadors, or other public ministers, or their domestics, or domestic servants, as a court of law can have or exercise consistently with the law of nations; and original, but not exclusive jurisdiction of all suits brought by ambassadors, or other public ministers, or in which a consul, or vice consul, shall be a party. And the trial of issues in fact in the Supreme Court, in all actions at law against citizens of the United States, shall be by jury. The Supreme Court shall also have appellate jurisdiction from the circuit courts and courts of the several states, in the cases herein after specially provided for; and shall have power to issue writs of prohibition to the district courts, when proceeding as courts of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, and writs of mandamus, in cases warranted by the principles and usages of law, to any courts appointed, or persons holding office, under the authority of the United States. [NOTE:  Text in bold of particular relevance to Marbury v. Madison. (Source, here)

The Court invalidated the last part of this law in favor of the constitution.  The constitution goes against the Judiciary Act, more specifically Article 3, Section 2:

The judicial branch has jurisdiction over any case involving: 

  • The US constitution, the laws of the United States laws, treaties, or any cases involving ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls.

This particular quote is what the Supreme Court cited as their jurisdiction to hear Marbury’s case. Marbury essentially tried to argue for a broader Supreme Court jurisdiction. The Judiciary Act would have allowed that if not for the constitution’s strict view what the Supreme Court is allowed to do. Marbury vs. Madison was the first case to strike out part of a congressional law. Its become known as judicial review. This is only the first case of it, comes up again years later in the Dred Scott decision. (another blog post)

I want to go over just one more case before I bring it into a modern context. I think that one of the most interesting Supreme Court cases is McCulloch vs. Maryland. If you want to read the facts, then click here. The McCulloch vs. Maryland is not so much about judicial review but it does establish an important pecking order within our government. You may have heard of federalism. This is a case that shows what federalism. In this case, a uanimous decision was made that the state of Maryland could not tax the federal government. The question the court had to answer was simply one of federalism. Congress legally created a bank and Maryland tried to pass a bill to tax it. The court found on the basis of the 9th amendment (see my last post) or the enumerated powers amendment. The court set the precedent that federal government has constitutional power over the states. The federal government is allowed to establish banks because of the 9th amendment and the states can’t tax it because its a constitutional function. This is monumentally important case especially with the civil war later in the century. (case was decided 1819)

Marbury vs. Madison gave the Supreme Court the power to strike out congressional laws that are unconstitutional. McCulloch vs. Maryland gave the federal government the priority over constitutional functions within the states. So why are these cases so important today?  I alluded to the controversial election in the beginning of the post. I believe these two cases give the people some hope that President Trump won’t become Dictator Trump. Obviously, he has a favorable Congress and he might even get a favorable Supreme Court pending a successful nomination. But Trump and Congress still have to follow the constitution. In the end, the Supreme Court has a duty to uphold it. So no matter what happens with Trump, I think the separation of powers and judicial review will keep him in check.

Let’s quickly for example, take President Obama and his presidency. Obama’s biggest accomplishment (depends on how you look at it, failure is more accurate) is Obamacare or the Affordable Health Care Act. It was a very controversial becuase it mandated that everyone get healthcare or pay a fine. Parts of it went to the Supreme Court to be decided if they were constitutional. Some parts of it were unconstitutional and others remained. In my opinion there wasn’t enough struck down. However, I think that knowing that obviously unconstituional laws will be struck down is comforting. Nobody saw Trump getting elected. I think we all gotta have a little faith

This definitely won’t be the end of this topic, it went a little longer than I wanted but I hope to revisit it soon.  Thanks for reading!

 

Citations:

Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech. “McCulloch v. Maryland.” Oyez. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1789-1850/17us316 (accessed December 12, 2016).

Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech. “Marbury v. Madison.” Oyez. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1789-1850/5us137 (accessed December 12, 2016).

 

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Introduction to Economics: A Historic Review of Modern Political Economic Argument.

Welcome to my very first series post on Economics. Don’t be scared by the long title and big words. Essentially the words: ‘Historic Review’ and ‘Modern Political Economic Argument’ are fancy ways of saying that I will be using historical findings and writings to preview how we look at various economic policies that are used in today’s politics. The word ‘Argument’ has a double meaning because it means I will also being arguing that certain economic policies are less effective than others. This particular post is just an introduction. It won’t be too long, but knowing me that could be a complete lie. In this introduction, I will briefly go over the topics which will conveniently become a post of this series. Each topic will have a dedicated post. I intend to make this a three-part series. However, I cannot rule out expanding if necessary, especially since sometimes it takes a lot of words to explain complex subjects. That being said, I’m going to try to keep it as simple as I can. Albert Einstein was once quoted as saying that any fool can make something more complex but it takes real genius to make it simple.

As I mentioned in my last post that I have been reading up and have an increasing in economics. In this blog, I have often discussed economics due to ignorance of certain politicians and in general. I take great umbrage at people who ignore the facts of economics and still repeat the same lies. However, politic disagreements aside, I truly just want to educate and show people that economics is not just made up out of thin air. It has a deep and rich historical basis. There are a broad number of scholars who made economics what it is today. Much of the Economic policies that you hear about come from the writings of these scholars. There is also the economic measures and policies that many people just don’t understand because it’s not typically taught in school (Highschool many of these subjects I will touch are probably not covered, and in college it would be an elective unless you major in economics)  and it’s just not deemed important.

The three subjects that I want to discuss and argue about are as follows:

Minimum Wage

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

Taxation/ Government Budgets

In no particular order, I will proceed to write at least three blog posts about each of these. In each case, I will cover some history about the topic. I will draw on many different sources available either online or in book form. After I use history to help explain what the topic is and how its evolved over time then I will go into the ‘argument’ part. As example, I might take minimum wage. I might try to argue that minimum wage should not be raised. I will lay out arguments both for and against. In the end, I want you to decide how it should be. The point of this series is to educate people on how economics works and how has worked in the past. Granted, I don’t know everything. I’m sure I will miss some things. However, that’s where you come in and fill in the blanks. A healthy democracy involves a citizenry that is educated and asks questions.

Let me just introduce each of the three topics. The first one probably needs no introduction if you follow politics or read this blog. Minimum wage is the floor wage or base wage that is set by the federal, state or local governments. It’s a little fuzzy because the legality and assigned power is not specifically mentioned in the constitution. I may go deeper into this issue, my initial thought would be to say the federal government is overreaching by trying raise the minimum wage because its power that should belong to the states and local government. Let’s face it, the state and local government probably knows what best for its people. I digress. Minimum wage is a hotly debated issue that comes up almost every election cycle.

Gross Domestic Product or its better known acronym GDP is the measure of output and input of any given country. Now in my posts, I will just refer to Gross Domestic Product as GDP. GDP is a very complex and challenging economic indicator. I recently read a book about it. It has history that is very interesting and very controversial. GDP is by no means a perfect measure of economy. Its often used by politicans to justify certain policies. GDP can be misleading because its calculated by a bunch of different statistics that are pieced together. Sometimes and in many cases, the statistics of poorer or less well off countries are skewed or incomplete. This will probably be the last post of series because of its complexity and because my knowledge is somewhat limited.

Taxation/ Governemnt Budgets is a very broad subject and to narrow it down, I mainly just want to disucss how taxes fix into the government’s budget. On the other side of the coin, I want to talk about the fiscal responsibility of the government. Today more than any other time in our history, the government seems to have a dangerous spending problem. The problem is not that our citizens don’t pay their taxes but rather the government out spends the amount of taxes collected. There is a wealth (pun intended, literally) of scholarhsip on taxes. They say there are two things certain in this life, Death and Taxes. In this post, I will almost definitely argue for the fiscal accountability of the government. You will see that fiscal accountability would actually lead to lower taxes. I think everyone can agree with lower taxes?

If  you have any suggestions for other topics, drop me a line. I’m willing to write about almost anything. I think these topics will bring some good questions and maybe answers about certain economic policies. I also think it will be good to explore some lesser known economic topics like GDP. In addition to educating you, I am also learning myself. In my life, I’ve taken two economic classes. Once I took a half year course in highschool. To be honest I did not learn anything. Then in college, I took a course in economics. I believe it was Marco-Economics. I learned the basics like supply and demand. I learned about the importance of scarcity. Now after college, I have been reading up on economics and trying understand how it works. Its definitely a topic that everyone should at least a little bit about it.

In the coming days you should expect the first post of this series. Thanks for reading! Have a great day!

US Foreign Policy: Commander and Peace

One of my very favorite topics among the variety that history and politics provide, is foreign policy. The issues in foreign policy have long puzzled observers and political scientists alike. I will try to explain briefly the concepts by which foreign policy is conducted. I may also dive into the rich history of foreign policy. Sometimes, the best way to explain it is through situations that have occurred in the past. In this post, as promised, I will preview what Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will face in foreign policy affairs. The world has changed dramatically since early days after the Revolutionary war. The changes that can be seen even from World War 2 to the Cold War are tremendous. The US has always maintained an aggressive foreign policy with an isolationist tinge. Before diving into some of the issues of foreign policy, I need to explain some concepts.

The first concept is known as political theory. Political theory is rooted in ancient Greek philosophy and ancient roman politics. There are three theories that exist in today’s political world. First, Realism is the theory that says that states act in self interest and put security first. Realism is basically a theory of survival, its uses rational decision making to survive. This theory usually is best seen in early to mid 20th century during the World Wars.  The second theory is liberalism. Not to be confused with the Democratic party. Liberalism is the theory that people are by nature good and that non governmental organizations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organizations work together. Liberalism is basically a theory of unity and sovereignty among large groups that act similarly. In other words, its a collective society of people that make decisions on consensus. The best example is Woodrow Wilson and his Fourteen Points, this attempt at world peace just before World War 1 is an example of  liberalism theory. The last theory is Neoliberalism which builds on liberalism by adding that states are the main actors.

In addition to these theories which you read more about here, there are some terms which I may use that you should be familiar with. Here they are in a list form:

Actor: a person or state participating in international relations

Rational: A logical human or state decision maker

Irrational: An illogical human or state decision maker

Interest or Self interest: The pursues of an actor.

Preferences: The order of outcomes which an actor perceives a better outcome.

Collective: A group of decision makers

Interdependence: The dependence on two or more actors on each other. (usually States)

Power: the capabilities of an actor, the resources, and might.

Sovereignty: ability to make own decisions

National interests: State actions in relation to other states.

So now that the boring part is over, I hope that you learned something. Just keep in mind these words because they are important to remember when discussing foreign policy. You may hear pundits and other news sources say that America is the world’s police. You probably have heard about Benghazi and ISIS. I have written a post or two on terrorism because that is foreign policy, however it significantly changes the game that typical foreign policy dictates. Let’s start with one of the most controversial foreign policy challenges. The upcoming contest with China. As you may know, China is the world’s most populous nation with nearly a billion people. If you recall, Trump has taken an extremely hard stance on the situation with China.

The problem with China is that they have communist oligarchy with a state run capitalist economy. The Chinese also have acquired world power as recently as 2000. China is relatively poorer than the US. However, China’s increased economic production over the past 20 years has given it new world power. The Chinese have not been shy about wielding this power. The fact is that China doesn’t necessarily agree with the US all the time due to the difference in government. It is also a fact that the Chinese are interdependent on the US and vice versa. Part of the Chinese rise has come from selling manufactured products in the US market. The other part has come from China buying up US debt bonds. So whoever becomes President will have a tricky task trying to navigate the tight relationship that bounds the US and Chinese economies together.

Unfortunately for Trump and Clinton, it won’t be that easy to assuage China. Of many complicated situations that arise from China there are two specifically that are worth mentioning. President Obama has devoted much time to what many called the Asian Pivot. One of the part of this trade agreements with Asian countries. The Asian Pivot advances an American agenda into Asian countries surrounding China like Japan, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam. The economic benefits of such trade agreements with these countries is debatable. However, more important it leads to the second issue with the Chinese. China have developed in a similar fashion to the United States, a sphere of influence. The United States’ sphere of influence reaches global because of our past foreign policy exploits, in other words all the wars that we have fought won have further our sphere of influence. The Chinese sphere of influence is mainly all the countries that surround it. With the exception of Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, Tawian and others must deal with the power and interests of the Chinese. Japan might be the only country in the sphere that China has a hard time to bully. (long story short, Japan is a sworn enemy and its protection comes from the US exclusively)

Despite, the Chinese influence in these countries, the US still has been trying entice these countries to become closer US allies. President Obama has consistently pursue these trade agreements. As you can tell, the problem is that China and US will eventually clash because the interests of both states are at stake. The counter to this building tension in the eastern pacific is the economic ties that make both Chinese and US markets vulnerable. So what do you think that Trump or Clinton will bring to the table? Here is my opinion, for Trump I think he is a little ambitious with his plan to talk down to China. The Chinese really don’t mess around, they have been building up an a large navy. They aren’t afraid to use the US debt against us. Trump needs to tread carefully. He should in all probability follow President Obama’s lead and advance the Asian Pivot. The fortification of the countries surrounding China could act as an buffer to any Chinese aggression to expand their influence and power.

I know that based on Clinton’s secretary of state tenure that she will almost certainly build on the Asian Pivot. However, what worries me about Clinton is that her campaign support consist of corporations. These big money donors may or may not be involved some type of war contracting companies. Clinton would probably be interested in a potential escalation if it would help her reelection in the future. Now you can call me a skeptic and hater. However, let’s just quickly look back at the Iraq War. If I recall correctly, it was Dick Cheney who encourage George Bush to invade Iraq despite the lack of evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Dick Cheney was the former CEO of Halliburton, a military contractor and oil producer. I happen to know about his secret salary he collected during his tenure as Vice President. All I am saying with this little expose is that the preference order of politicians is often hidden. The way that self interest can dictate how a policy is formed and executed is one of the most interesting motives in politics.

I will end here, however, I want to continue to discuss different foreign policies and further apply and explain how they work within the context of international relations. So please stay tuned. Thanks for reading!!!

 

Source of Power!

If you have not heard yet, the 2016 campaign has taken a strange twist since this past Tuesday. Both Ted Cruz and John Kaisch have dropped out of the race! No, Trump didn’t deport them. However, this paves the way for Trump become the presumptive nominee barring any convention chaos. One of my very first posts was on Trump, a polarizing and controversial character. Now Donald Trump is a businessman and a successful politician. He seems to have accomplished something that everyone thought was a joke. He also has marketed his “business mindset” better than his predecessor Mitt Romney in 2012. I predicted that Trump’s media coverage would probably propel him very far in this presidential race. Trump is not your typical republican, because he uses the News Media as his second party helping get the nomination.

However, the real challenge for Trump is yet to come. Hillary is a veteran politician and has been on many campaigns including her own senate races, 2008 presidential bid and her husband’s presidential campaigns. For now, I will wait til to primaries are over to start breaking down the general election. As of right now, its pretty clear who the candidates will be. This post is not going to be all about Trump and Clinton. This post will combine some modern politics with those of Alexander Hamilton’s time. I started this amazing book named after our first Treasurer, Alexander Hamilton. I realized that Hamilton was a great founding father with today’s democratic values in terms of government power. I couldn’t believe it. Let me explain.

Alexander Hamilton was a part of the federalist party before and after the signing of the constitution. As a federalist, Hamilton believed in a strong central government that had control over the states. The federalist beliefs were pitted against the much less organized anti-federalist. The face of this group was by far, Thomas Jefferson. Anti-federalists, as the name indicates are against an strong central government. They believe that the states should hold most of the power and that the central government should be weaker.  If you paid attention in history class you might recall the federalist papers. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison were the authors of this series of newspaper articles meant to help ratify the constitution.

Now let me explain the beliefs of both republicans and democrats in 2016 politics. Then I will make a nifty comparison bound to blow  you away. In 2016, the democrats believe that the central government should be strong. Just look at how Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders supports government programs to help people. Obamacare is another example of government power. When they want to raise the minimum wage or make federal education curriculum that makes for a strong central government. On the flip side of that Republicans typically want less government (OK its a little flawed, actually libertarian beliefs are closer to anti-federalist beliefs) with looser regulations on business, no minimum wage, privatized education and healthcare. So like I was saying Hamilton would be kinda of democrat…just look at this:

Federalist and Democrat believe in strong central government

Anti-Federalist and Republican* believe in a weaker central government that gives power to the states. 

That is just crazy to think about that one of our smartest founding fathers had today’s democratic values. Then again maybe its not crazy because thanks to the federalist, we have the great constitution that we have today. I think its important to realize how our government came into being.This is just one small facet. Many of our founding fathers drew on the classics like Machiavelli, Cicero, Aristotle, Adam Smith, and Locke. Our government was not just made up out of thin air. It’s actually strongly based in Roman political theory and enlightenment economics.

You may be asking yourself why does this federalist and anti-federalist even matter. Well, it matters for two reasons. One of George Washington’s warnings in his farewell address was to avoid political parties. The federalist party and anti-federalist were formed right after he left office against his will. As for the issue of the power of government would never go away. In fact, it lead to the bloodiest war on American soil, the civil war. Before I talk about how the Civil War was actually issue of government power, I need to discuss the colonial times.

You may know the before the colonies became states they fought in a revolution against England. In the colonial days, each colony was considered its own separate entity under the British Monarchy. The colonies had their own economies, their own money, their own laws plus the laws that the King passed. This tradition of being independent did not just magically disappear when they won the revolution and signed the constitution. It is evident even before the signing of the current constitution that the states wanted to keep their independence. The Articles of the Confederation were used for a few years until a new constitution could be written. The Articles of Confederation did exactly what the Anti-federalist wanted. It made a weak central government with strong states. The problem was that the states could never agree on anything. It became a similar problem to when you and your group of friends try to pick a place to eat and who’s gonna pay. One person wants Mcdonald’s because their cheap, another person wants Chinese, another person wants steak. You can almost never decide because everyone’s intentions and motivations are different.

Fortunately for us, the federalist did win the day with the constitution. It settle those pesky problems with the states independence. It equaled out the balance of power with size and population using compromises. Now let’s fast forward about 60 to 65 years from the signing of the constitution in 1789. This brings us to the civil war. The main issue of the Civil War was slavery. However, the deeper issue which causes many historians to debate is that of state’s rights. This time it was the southern states trying to claim their right to keep slaves. The question of the time was whether or not the southern states had the right to keep slaves or did the federal government have the right to outlaw it? History decided it with a war, as Abraham Lincoln put it to keep the Union together. Lincoln maintained that he would rather keep the union together by freeing all of the slaves, none of them or some of them. He didn’t care which one.

In end, the 13th amendment to the constitution was passed that outlaw slavery in the United States. The southern succession proved to be an error because the union had the economic and population advantage. States rights play a big role because the war wasn’t just to keep slaves but about the right to keep them. The odd thing is that slaves actually hurt the southern economy. Slaves often put poor whites in poverty. The slaves only helped produce an overstock of cotton to be sold to Europe. Unfortunately for the south just producing cotton wasn’t enough to win against an industrialized North.

Today states rights usually appears in the politics of education because of government legislation like common core or No Child Left Behind. The same fight still exists partly because of the interpretation of the constitution and partly because deep down the states will always feel like they need to have a say.

I hope you enjoy this post. Thanks for reading 🙂

*(More accurately Libertarian because we believe in no federal taxes and minimal regulation)