The United States is a constitution-based federal system, meaning power is distributed between a national (federal) government and local (state) governments. One important tenet of this system is a democracy, in which the ultimate power rests with the people. Democracy provides citizens the opportunity to elect officials to represent them. It also allows citizens to choose to elect a different person to represent them if they are dissatisfied with their current elected officials.
The Federal Government plays an important role in areas such as homeland security, foreign relations, and military defense. The Federal Government also plays a large role in promoting economic growth. It does this through tax laws, monetary policies, and economic regulations. Federal tax policies can influence consumer spending and business investment decisions. Federal monetary policy helps to manage the country’s money supply and interest rates. Federal economic regulations set rules for how businesses operate in the U.S., protect consumers from unfair or deceptive practices, and ensure safe products are available for consumers.
Branches of the Federal Government
The functions of state and national government in the United States are based on the principle of Separation of Powers. The federal government consists of three distinct branches: the executive, legislative and judicial. The Legislative Branch creates the laws (in the chambers of Congress), the Judicial Branch interprets the laws (in the courts), and the Executive Branch enforces the laws (through regulations). The powers and duties of these branches are further defined by acts of Congress, including the creation of executive departments and courts inferior to the Supreme Court. Each branch has some authority to check and balance the other branches. This ensures that no single branch becomes too powerful.
Federal Government / Services
- The White House
- Federal Agencies & Commissions Listing
- US House of Representatives
- US Senate
- Library of Congress
- US Supreme Court
- Postal Service
- Federal Resources for Retirement Plans
The legislative branch of government is responsible for making and maintaining laws within its jurisdiction, and it is the one charged with creating the laws that hold our society together. Federal law is enacted through the legislative branch, or Congress, by passing bills that are sent to the President for approval. Another important function of the legislative branch is oversight of the executive branch.
The executive is the branch of government responsible for the overall governance of a state. The executive branch carries out laws passed by Congress. The President of the United States is the head of the executive branch, makes appointments to federal agencies, passes and vetoes bills from Congress, and has the powers of Commander-in-Chief and Chief Diplomat. The President chooses people to help him or her. Some of these are on the President’s staff, like the press secretary, speech writers, and policy aides. Others are the heads of executive (Cabinet) departments.
The Supreme Court has several responsibilities, the most important of which is interpreting the Constitution. The judicial branch at both the federal and state level has two very important jobs. The first is to settle disputes regarding laws, while the second is to ensure citizens are treated fairly under the law. The U.S. judicial branch decides the constitutionality of laws and is responsible for interpreting federal law and is led by the Supreme Court. At the state level, the judicial branch is established either by the state legislature or by a state constitution.
- United States Courts The official website of the U.S. Federal Courts. Find court records, statistics, forms & fees, and current and historical information about the Federal Courts and Federal Judges.
- U.S. Courts: Federal Courts Find information about federal courts and their history. You will also find links to a glossary of legal terms, a court finder, and electronic case files.
Federal agencies are created to carry out federal law and policy, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The federal government plays an important role in the lives of all Americans, providing services, regulating businesses, and protecting citizens’ rights. Citizens need to stay informed and active in the federal government’s activities so they can be involved in the decisions that affect their lives. For a full listing of Federal Agencies, Departments, and Commissions, visit USA.gov.
The federal government is responsible for providing many services, such as Social Security payments, veterans’ benefits, and national defense, and also regulates a variety of businesses and industries, including banking, securities, railroads, and airlines. Additionally, Federal grants fund state and local programs that provide services to citizens.
Through federal programs, the government assists those in need, such as welfare and food stamps. Federal agencies also work to protect the environment, ensure public safety, strengthen the economy and provide cultural resources. Federal regulations are designed to protect citizens from fraud and abuse while promoting competition and innovation.
State & Local Government
While the federal government of the United States has supreme authority within the entire country, a great deal of the responsibility of governing is delegated to the states. All levels of government must obey the U.S. and State Constitutions. The federal government is powerful, but it also relies on the states to help carry out federal law. States handle many public services, such as education and healthcare, while also enforcing federal laws. The U.S. Constitution mandates that all states uphold a “republican form” of government.
Federal regulations are only effective if they are enforced at the state and local levels. This means that citizens need to be aware of how federal law affects their state and local governments, as well as their rights. Federalism is an important part of the United States government, allowing for a balance of power between the federal government and the states.
The federal government plays an important role in citizens’ lives, from providing services to protecting citizens’ rights. Through federal programs, regulations, and partnerships with states, the federal government works to serve its citizens and ensure a strong and prosperous nation.