Why aren’t things improving in the United States for more people? Some recent studies give a seemingly simple answer with extraordinarily complex facets – because anything that would make a meaningful improvement can be, and usually is, blocked by some entity with the power to do so… and the United States has the most venues for blocking legislative or regulatory action of any industrialized country in the world… and those venues don’t even include the multitude of other options for stopping things from getting done.
For example, one reason [but not the only one] why Republicans opposed Obamacare was that the ACA didn’t include tort reform – putting a cap on outrageous medical malpractice legal settlements. Why Obama didn’t was because the lawyers opposed it, particularly trial lawyers, and they’re big contributors. Those who opposed tort reform claim that malpractice awards are the only check on bad doctors, which is total bullshit. Malpractice claims don’t stop most bad doctors; they just increase the cost of medical insurance for all doctors, most of whom aren’t bad, which increases overall health costs. Stronger rules for medical disbarment would do far more to rid the field of incompetent physicians than malpractice legal lawsuits.
Despite air pollution that is so bad in some areas that thousands are literally dying, air emissions standards that would make the air breathable have been delayed or halted for years because coal and power generation companies have the funds to block them. In Utah, which suffers incredibly bad inversions and air pollution along the Wasatch Front (where most people live), the utility lobbyists have successfully persuaded the overwhelmingly Republican legislature that tighter air standards would be bad for business, despite popular opinion that indicates something should be done.
Then take a look at Congress, in particular, the House of Representatives, where essentially the more conservative Republicans can effectively block legislation, even though they represent a minority of the American electorate, and where the NRA can influence representatives enough that measures favored by seventy percent of Americans can’t even get passed. In the Senate, either party can block – and has – legislation with national support.
Checks and balances are fine, but their application in practice has become a competition to see who can block what, rather than a way to work out differences and get something done.