Is America Necessary? Conservative, Liberal, & Socialist Perspectives of United States Political Institutions

By Henry Etzkowitz; Peter Schwab | Go to book overview

8 Congress
The basic questions this chapter will address are:
1. What is the actual role that Congress plays in the American political system?
2. Is Congress a legislative body whose role is to obscure the real wielders of power in America?
3. What groups in American society have the ability to get the legislation they want passed?
4. Do the American people have any role to play in making Congress an effective national political institution representing their interests?

Conservatives and liberals believe that both houses of Congress--the Senate, the House of Representatives--play a primary role in policy- making. In this role, the Senate holds hearings, conducts investigations, and debates issues. This organ has the ability to take a long perspective and to develop issues which take extended periods of time to incubate. Also, the Senate develops public opinion on these issues through hearings, debates, and investigations. As far as conservatives and liberals are concerned, the Senate is a public forum and publicity machine.

The House of Representatives is viewed as a more specialized body than the Senate.1 Because it has more members2 it can divide itself into more committees and pay detailed attention to special areas. The House is often seen as reacting to the publicity generated by the Senate in its "Great Debates." Conservatives see Congress as playing as important a role in the formulation and passing of legislation as the Office of the President.

Although the President often initiates legislation, he just as often responds to the initiatives of Congress, particularly in domestic affairs.3 The weaknesses of Congress as perceived by liberals are seen by conservatives to be strengths. For example, the seniority system-- where length of time served in Congress is the determining factor to being assigned to head a committee--viewed as anti-democratic by liberals, is seen by conservatives to be an asset because it allows Congressmembers to mature in office before attaining great power. This system also acts as an incentive to encourage good performance. Conservatives believe in the importance of Congress and maintain that it functions as a primary instrument of policy formation. The legislative structure in the United States is well suited to perform its task of policy formation, and, according to conservatives, it really accomplishes this.

Liberals accept the legislative structure that exists in the United States. They believe that this structure has the ability to initiate, formulate, and enforce legislation. Its weaknesses are threefold: (1) Structural defects; (2) the right person is not always elected to Congress; and (3) the public does not always arouse itself to pressure Congress in the same manner as do special interests.

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Is America Necessary? Conservative, Liberal, & Socialist Perspectives of United States Political Institutions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One 15
  • 1 - Where Do I Stand? 17
  • Conservative 21
  • Conclusion 28
  • Socialist 44
  • Notes 46
  • Part Two 57
  • 2 - The Presidency 61
  • Conservative 67
  • Socialist 79
  • Notes 85
  • 3 - The Pentagon 101
  • Conservative 107
  • Socialist 117
  • 4 - The Secret Police 133
  • Conservative 139
  • Socialist 152
  • Notes 160
  • Part Three 167
  • 5 - Elite Clubs and Associations 169
  • Conservative 173
  • Notes 184
  • Notes 192
  • 6 - Multinational Corporations 209
  • Conservative 213
  • Socialist 221
  • Notes 244
  • 7 - Organized Crime 257
  • Conservative 259
  • Socialist 264
  • Part Four 283
  • 8 - Congress 285
  • Conservative 289
  • Socialist 296
  • Notes 303
  • 9 - The Courts 315
  • Conservative 319
  • Socialist 330
  • Notes 337
  • 10 - Regulatory Agencies 347
  • Conservative 349
  • Socialist 361
  • Notes 369
  • Political Parties 385
  • Conservative 387
  • Liberal 396
  • Conclusion 410
  • 12 - Academia 413
  • Conservative 416
  • References 427
  • Notes 434
  • Part Five 449
  • 13 - The Media 451
  • Conservative 453
  • Liberal 467
  • Notes 474
  • 14 - Banks 483
  • Conservative The Great Banking Retreat. 485
  • Socialist 489
  • Notes 497
  • 15 - Unions 511
  • Conservative 513
  • Notes 519
  • A Critical Issue 537
  • 16 - The Economic Crisis 539
  • Conservative 542
  • Socialist 544
  • Notes 550
  • Part Seven 557
  • 17 - Political Programs 567
  • Louis Banks. the Mission Of Our Business Society. 568
  • Ralph Nader and Donald Ross. Toward an Initiatory Democracy. 576
  • Stanley Aronowitz. On Organization: A Good Party Is Hard to Find. 581
  • Mass Parties and Reformism 587
  • Notes 596
  • Fred R. Harris. Up With Those Who'Re Down. 602
  • Part Eight 613
  • Appendix 621
  • Note 644
  • Index 649
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