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Item 1 - Purpose and Function of Our Government - General

Published on Mon, May 17, 2021 9:00AM PDT | Updated Mon, May 17, 2021 9:10AM PDT

Who we are

The United States of America (US) is a federal republic composed of 50 states, a federal district of Washington, D.C., five major and various minor insular areas, as well as over 90,000 local governments, including counties, municipalities, townships, school districts, and special district governments. At 3.8 million square miles and with over 329 million people, the US is the world’s third-largest country by total area and the third most populous.

Our vision and mission

As documented in the US Constitution, the people of the US, through our Government, seek to form a more perfect union by establishing justice, ensuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

Our strategy

To achieve the mission of the people, our Government raises money, spends money, and exercises its authority. Through these actions, it enables, incentivizes, and forces certain behaviors (e.g. saving for retirement through Social Security and Medicare, attending minimum years of school, getting vaccinated) in an effort to maintain or improve various key metrics related to American life.

Raising and spending money

Our Government raises money through taxes and non-tax sources, including businesses it runs. This money is used to pay government expenditures and to transfer money to individuals and others. At the federal level, when the money raised is not sufficient to cover the money spent (most years), the US Department of the Treasury may borrow money to finance the difference. States may borrow funds for projects but may not borrow to fund annual deficits, except Vermont, where its constitution does not preclude it from doing so.

Exercising authority

Our Government exercises its authority directly by regulating, legislating, and issuing executive orders and court orders. It also grants authority to, and rescinds it from, government agencies and state and local governments.

See more at Government operations below.