Why does the changeover in USA take so long?

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cliffski
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Why does the changeover in USA take so long?

Postby cliffski » Wed Nov 19, 2008 6:14 pm

Seriously... several months? What Gives. The UK *is* a smaller country, but here everyone changes jobs OVERNIGHT. Maybe a week or 2 weeks makes sense, but why exactly does the USA take so long to transition from one president to another. Politically, the whole country is frozen right now incapable of changing deciding or achieving anything.
This is nuts.
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Re: Why does the changeover in USA take so long?

Postby Tea » Fri Nov 21, 2008 5:52 am

I am American but I didn't know the answer to this so I looked it up. The president's term ends on Jan. 20 because that is the date mandated by the 20th amendment of the constitution, passed in 1933. The new president used to take office in March, but the amendment was passed to speed things up.

Elections are held in November by law, originally so as not to conflict with farmers' schedules, apparently. People who were elected had to be given a lot of time to get their affairs in order and travel to Washington in the days before plane travel, phones, computers etc. Now it seems the lag time is used for training staff. There is an act regulating the presidential transition.
http://www.senate.gov/~gov_affairs/s2705.htm

None of this I knew till now!
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Re: Why does the changeover in USA take so long?

Postby sambrookjm » Fri Nov 21, 2008 11:25 pm

I didn't know that either. That's interesting...

As for the country being frozen and unable to make a decision, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Wasn't it Jefferson that said something like "The best government is the one that governs least."?
I think I've had this deja vu before.
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Re: Why does the changeover in USA take so long?

Postby Tea » Sat Nov 22, 2008 7:37 am

I think as a nation we tend to jump into things, so a few months' enforced looking-before-we-leap is probably a good thing.
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Re: Why does the changeover in USA take so long?

Postby cliffski » Sat Nov 22, 2008 10:35 am

But from an economic point of view, doesn't this mean some paralysis. If I'm a big japanese company considering investing in the USA or Canada, I can't talk to the US government about subsidies, regulation and so on right now, because I know these guys will be gone in a few months.
Surely that's bad?
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Re: Why does the changeover in USA take so long?

Postby Tea » Sat Nov 22, 2008 9:20 pm

Honestly, despite all the rhetoric, the two political parties are pretty close together in philosophy. Just my opinion but I don't know if it makes much difference, at least under normal circumstances. The financial crisis of course is just so huge that God knows anything about anything anymore.

It would be satisfying if we could kick certain people out over night. I wouldn't complain about that.
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Re: Why does the changeover in USA take so long?

Postby scylfing » Sun Mar 15, 2009 9:21 am

From an economic point of view, it's lovely lovely lovely when the government doesn't act. Government actions always create economic uncertainty. The full ramifications of an economic policy are not seen until it is felt by all that it will not change. The longer a policy goes unchanged, the more confident market actors are that the policy will remain unchanged.

If you're a big Japanese company considering investing in the USA, it's nice when you know that there's not going to be any major regulatory changes in the next several months. It doesn't hinder you at all in talking to the US government about subsidies and regulation either. The majority of such decisions are not made by Congress (for whom it creates insta-scandal if they establish subsidies or favorable regulations for specific companies) but rather by bureaucratic agencies (who are usually ignored by the press and act much more freely). Those bureaucratic agencies do not change their entire staffing with each new administration. While an administration can replace top staff immediately, and will often try to alter staffing policies in various ways to skew the people in an agency to their benefit, it takes the entire two-term duration of an administration to dramatically impact the policies and composition of the rank and file. If they weren't actively striving to change an agency, they may not be able to make a lasting impact at all.

To sum, major federal bureaucracies in the US have slow evolution that is at least partially independent of top-staff changeovers. Since they're the major powers behind the federal government, no regulatory 'paralysis' is created by the slow changeover.
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