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Describe the evolution of the role of the federal government, including public services, taxation, economic policy, and common defense.

United States Capitol
United States Capitol

Topics on the Page

Role of the Federal Government According to the Constitution
Public Services
Economic Policy
The Post Office
  • Foreign Policy
  • The Common Defense

Focus Question: How does federal government work -- through public services, taxation, and defense -- in favor of the people?

rotating gif.gifFor more on the functions and structures of the Federal Government, see USG.3.3

Click here for How Americans View the Federal Government from the Gallup Poll and USA Today, October 13, 2010.

external image Red_apple.jpgResources for information on Federal Government
Our Documents- 100 Milestone Documents
Ben's Guide to US Government
U.S. Constitution Course from the Department of Defense

The Role of the Federal Government According to the Constitution

Public Services

The Federal Government provides many public services to the citizens of the United States.

Many of the Government public works programs found their beginning in the aftermath of the Great Depression, see Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal program. For more, see United States History II.12
  • Search this online database from the FDR library, to find out what New Deal Projects were built in your area.

Kids can learn about public services interactively from this website: http://pbskids.org/democracy/my-government/


FY2009 federal piechart
FY2009 federal piechart

According to the Constitution, Congress has the power to collect taxes on incomes without apportionment and without census or enumeration.
For information on the United States Treasury and the public deficit, visit TreasuryDirectKIDS.gov.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 10.36.54 AM.pngSee also Economics 4.5 for information on progressive, proportional and regressive taxation

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 12.30.24 PM.pngLesson plans from the IRS about history of taxation, fair taxes, how to complete taxes, etc: http://apps.irs.gov/app/understandingTaxes/teacher/index.jsp
Another lesson plan for students to understand the current debate about Washington, D.C.'s "Taxation without Representation" motto: http://www.dcvote.org/library/lessonplan/index.cfm#.UXHtlsp4-N4

Multimedia.pngTaxes and the history of taxes are explained in this Crash Course video.

Where do income taxes go?
The chart below is from 2009 and shows how much go to the defense budget. A lesson plan idea would be to get students to research for themselves where money collected through taxation goes - how much of it goes to public services? how much of taxes paid work in favor of the people?

Economic Policy

According to the Constitution there is to be no commercial preference or export tax. Congress can regulate commerce with foreign nations and with Native Americans, the states do not have the right to regulate this on their own.

Post Office (called the United States Postal Service since 1971)

Image to the right shows a Letter, signed by Benjamin Franklin, giving pass for William Goddard as Riding Surveyor for the newly formed Constitutional Post, September 1776

external image Franklin_signed_pass_for_Goddard3.jpg
For background, see Colonial Times from the United States Postal Service that discusses the role of the Post Office in the decades before the American Revolution.

external image 200px-Paperback_book_black_gal.svg.pngSee also, The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications. Paul Starr, Basic Books, 2004. Starr contends that the debates leading to the American Revolution were made possible to a significant extent by the fact that the Post Office carried newspapers between printing offices for free.

external image 200px-Podcast-icon.svg.pngYou've Got Mail: A History of the Post Office from BackStory with the American History Guys.


Foreign Policy
From Americas beginnings our foreign policy has changed many times

Common Defense
According to the Constitution, states do not have the right to harbor troops or war ships during a time of peace. States cannot enter treaties of war with other nations. Only Congress has the power to declare war.

[1] http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=2
[2] http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/milestones/articles/
[3] http://teachingamericanhistory.org/convention/themes/