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Basic Civics

Post # 25, Bob McKnight's Subscription Commentary

During book signings, speaking to community organizations, and general questions from the press, I am often asked about basic Civics. Although some of the questions surprise me with their fundamental founding, it has caused me to conclude that we have a problem in America. We really don't understand how our government operates. I realize all of us have other responsibilities to care for our families, complete our work, and carry out our important community work. We don't have a lot of extra time. We used to study Civics in public school, but that required curriculum has been discontinued, at a peril for our country, in my opinion. The chaos in our National Government has exasperated the problem.

Here are examples of a lack of general knowledge of our government:

  • Neither the President nor the Governor can pass legislation. Only the Congress and the Legislature can pass laws.

  • The power of the purse rests only with the Congress and the Legislature. But the President and the Governor can distribute money if given the express authority by the Congress or Legislature.

  • The President and Governor have the authority to issue Executive Orders to the Executive Branch, again with authority in law. In some cases the EO's are very similar to laws, but they are inferior to laws.

  • It is often said that Courts have been more active and actually write law. They do not have the authority to write law, but some of their ruling can have characteristics of law, and they are binding, unless overturned by laws enacted by the Congress or legislature.

  • One of the most significant powers of the Congress or Legislature is "oversight" of laws and appropriations. If it is felt the Executive Branch is not carrying out the laws in accordance with intent, the Congress and Legislature can force corrective action by the responsible party--usually the President or Governor, and through the Courts if necessary.

Former U.S. Senator Bob Graham (D.) and Congressman Lou Frey (R.) both have created Institutes of Government that educate the public on Civics and their Government. Google their Institutes for more information.


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