Saturday, 11 June 2011

Scenes From My Saturday - Guitar and Government

Every Saturday morning, a nice Swedish man comes to my house and tries to teach me to play the guitar. I say "tries" because I'm a bit old to learn, and my fingers are clumsy and I don't have a great natural sense of rhythm. But he's patient and we do the best we can.

Today, as he was getting his guitar out of the case and while I was making him a cup of tea, he asked me out of the blue, "So how's Barack Obama doing?"
Me: Oh... Pretty well I think. I mean, the economy isn't as good as we'd like. So he's got a lot of work to do there. But then, the Republicans are doing worse. 
Him: Oh really? 
Me: Yes, well you see they don't really have a plan to make the economy any better. All the things they want to do would just make it worse.

Him: Yes, it's always very easy for the opposition to say "it should be this way" because they don't have to do anything." 
Me: Well, that's the interesting thing. You see, in the last congressional election REpublicans actually took control of the House of Representatives. So they have started actually passing all these really unpopular bills. But they don't become law. Because they don't control the Senate of the Presidency.

Him: [Confused look.] 
Me: Ok, basically, Republicans control the House of Representatives. But not the Senate. And Democrats control the presidency. But not the Supreme Court. So Republicans have been using their majority in the House to pass lots of really unpopular bills. Like eliminating Medicare - that's the government programme for health care aimed at the elderly.

Him: But didn't Barack Obama recently pass a bill that does the opposite? 
Me: Yes, Obama's health care bill last year offered health care for all through a combination of private and public sector providers. Republicans want to do the opposite, and that's becoming more and more clear to the voters.

Him: It sounds like the people who created the US Government were very clever. It's not good to have the same Party in control of everything. 
Me: Yes, it's called the Separation of Powers. The President has to have his nominees confirmed by Congress. Congress can't pass laws without the President's signature. The Courts can rule Congresses laws unconstitutional, but the judges are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.  
Him: It must make things very stable.  
Me: Well, yes. But it's better if you are happy about the status quo. If you want change, it makes that really hard to achieve.  
Him: Yes, I suppose things could easily get... constipated.  
Me: Yes. Constipated is a good word for it.