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02 - Overview of US Public Policy (320B 2013).pdf

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University of British Columbia
Political Science
POLI 101
Paul Quirk

Political Science 320 B, Fall 2013 Lecture 2: Overview of Public Policy in the US September 11, 2012 ANNOUNCEMENTS, PRELIMINARIES -- Sit in a seat you like. We will try to keep same seats (so I can use a seating chart to learn names). Sign up for seating (count rows from the front, seats from right, and combine: 3 row, second seat is 302.) No sitting in last four rows. -- Syllabus: Will send today. Some readings details not yet available. -- Next assignment and key dates for course. Coming by email and posted to website. (Email will say when website is relevant.) -- How to take notes: Type or handwrite. Use a few words to reference the posted notes. Make comments on additional material of interest. (Usually, just occasional notes, because my notes are extensive.) LECTURE: OVERVIEW OF PUBLIC POLICY IN THE US Topics What is Public Policy? Growth of Government Instruments of Policy Types of Programs Role of the States Distinctive Features I. What is Public Policy? Public policy is not easy to define. My rough definition: A public policy is a formally adopted decision concerning the on-going actions of government, directed toward the public, other countries, or the physical environment. It is intended to affect the conditions of the society and the lives of citizens, not merely internal structures or operations of government. (The concept of policy does not indicate any particular level of generality, importance, or permanence. Policies vary enormously on these dimensions: Policy of religious freedom, or policy of charging 85 cents for a postage stamp. Additional attributes: -- policy is general and on-going: E.g., Dept of Justice challenged a proposed merger of AT&T with T-Mobile, alleging antitrust violation. This was a one-time action, even though large and important. Do we say opposing the suit is “policy of the government?” Not usually—rather, perhaps, “policy is to block mergers between biggest companies in a concentrated market.” -- policy is authorized, legitimated (by a law or a regulation). Not, Dept of Housing and Urban Development makes grants for low-income housing to companies that contribute to Dem party. That could be true (I made it up), but it would not be called “policy.” -- endless borderline issues: is the set of wage scales for government employees a policy (although directed toward internal operations)? Is fighting a war in Afghanistan a policy? Don’t worry about fine distinctions, what counts as policy. II. Growth of Government Framers’ objective: very limited government, especially for federal. (“Framers”—those who wrote the constitution. Role of fed govt in early 19 Century: regulate commerce (tariffs on imports); relations with “Indians” (native Americans); internal improvements—e.g. dams, canals. Postal service. Major periods of growth of government (with a few leading examples from each period): - Progressive era (1890s-1920). Regulation of railroads and banks, antitrust policy. - New Deal (1932-1940). Social security; agriculture programs; regulation of securities, airlines, radio, prescription drugs. -- Post WWII (late 1940s-1950s): a national security state: large standing military; Central Intelligence Agency. Also: full employment act (1946)—makes it official policy that fed govt is responsible for economic stability. Federal highway program. -- Great Society (1960s): Anti-poverty programs; urban renewal; public housing; civil rights (laws versus racial discrimination). Medicare—health care for aged. -- 1970s: environmental regulation (Clean Air Act of 1970); water, toxic substances, hazardous waste. -- 2000s: expansion of health care (Medicare Rx coverage, Obama health care); expansion of financial regulation; financial bailout and auto industry bailout. -- Issue for speculation: what’s next? Are there potential areas of future growth of government? III. Instruments of Policy Govt policy involves one or more a several “instruments.” That is, methods of acting. Important: for a given objective, there are often alternative instruments. ASK: What can a govt official do that will change something about society or the world? Imagine writing a law to fix something. Discuss: Someone mention a problem— students. === Regulation – impose and enforce an obligation or prohibition on private citizens or others. Provide a service, directly or by contracting. Provide information Subsidy—give funds to support some private activity (pays part of cost). E.g federal subsidy for state sewer projects. Taxation – e.g. gasoline, tobacco. Distribute funds (as income, without restrictions—e.g. pensions, welfare. ---- Possible additional example: unemployment. (Exercise for the student: Key point: for any given purpose, one instrument may work better than another. Example of environmental protection. Alternatives: - regulation: specify equipment required - regulation (different kind): specify emission levels permitted - taxation: charge a tax per unit of emissions IV. Types of Programs (by substantive focus or objective) Mention several types, plus examples. Economic stabilization—efforts to maintain growth, employment, price stability. Business regulation -- Securities and Exchange Commission (stock and bond markets), Federal Communications Commission (radio and TV spectrum— “wardrobe malfunctions”), Food and Drug Administration (largest), Environmental Protection Agency. Social services – mental health programs, family
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