The US Constitution, which was written on a mountain by Moses, Jesus, Ronald Reagan and George Washington, begins this way:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Constitution then goes on to outline the respective roles of the three branches of government.
The first branch mentioned is the Legislative branch. Its role is mainly to get re-elected but it also performs other important functions: to wear flannel shirts, jeans and boots during the three months prior to an election, to get money from lobbyists, to go on “fact-finding missions” to places like Aruba, to take credit for anything good and to shift blame for anything remotely bad, and to hold “town meetings” where they basically tolerate being in the same room with people who a) might disagree with them and b) don’t give them cash but who might vote for them.
Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years and members of the Senate are elected every six years. Basically, Senators wear nicer suits and have better haircuts. Representatives, on the other hand, have to raise campaign cash like rats in heat. Despite this fact, the Senate works much more…er, deliberately, since the Senate rules allow any relative of a Senator who is a third cousin or closer to bring the Senate to a standstill. There’s a saying among rich people: “We don’t run for Congress. We own the people who run for Congress.”
The second branch of government is the Executive Branch. This is basically the President and everyone he can boss around. It also includes the Vice President, who has the easiest job on the planet. According to the Constitution, the Vice President has two duties: be President if the President dies and cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate. Since the Senate never gets around to voting on anything and since Presidents don’t die all that often, this gives the Vice President a lot of time to relax. Historically, vice presidents have been excellent golfers.
Among the people the President can boss around are the cabinet members. Originally, there were just a few: Secretary of War, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Attorney General. The Secretary of War is now the Secretary of Defense to reflect the fact that our armed forces serve to protect us from people like the Iraqis, the Afghans, and the Libyans who just a few years ago were getting money from the Secretary of the Treasury. See? Government is complicated!
Over the years, a bunch of new secretaries have been added: Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Transportation, and so on. Presidents create new cabinet positions when they feel the need which means we will probably soon see a Secretary of NASCAR, a Secretary of No Homos, and a Secretary of Jesus. While cabinet secretaries seem pretty important, the fact that Tom Vilsack can get appointed as one pretty much proves they don’t need to be anything other than a political hack to get the job.
The third (and final) branch is the Judicial Branch which used to be highly respected because of the service on the Court of such towering intellects as John Marshall, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Charles Evans Hughes and Louis Brandeis. That was then. This is now, when a mental midget like Clarence Thomas, who hasn’t asked a question during oral arguments in four years, is actually allowed to sit on the same bench once occupied by those justices. Along with his drinking buddies John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, Thomas has helped hand over our political system to the Koch brothers, Wall Street, and other reactionaries on the right. As a result, the current US Supreme Court now has a reputation somewhat lower than Big Eddie’s Wham-Bam Used Car Bonanza. Unfortunately, people still pretty much go along with their decisions, which is how George W. Bush became president. Yay for us!
Tomorrow: The Real True Story of the Bill of Rights