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public policy 2302 texas tech
Terms in this set (128)
set of actions by government with common goal or purpose ◦Examples: full employment, raising academic performance, protecting the environment, defending the country against foreign threats
-Government addresses: ◦Issues of common concern
◦Laws, regulations, statements, behaviors ◾Deter crime
◦Actions coordinated to achieve goals
What is public policy all about? A public policy is a set of actions by government in pursuit of a common goal or purpose.
Examples of goals include achieving full employment, raising the level of academic performance of students, protecting the environment, and defending the country against foreign threats.
To be a public policy, the issue must be one that government is expected to address. Governments can choose to do nothing about a particular issue. Even so, public policies are about issues of common concern, and they thus become matters for government to handle.
Government acts in a number of ways. It makes laws. It enacts regulations. It makes statements. It behaves in patterned ways. For example, government passes laws on crime and also implements those laws to deter crime.
Government policy is a set of all the actions the government takes in a coordinated way to achieve a goal. Government must set goals, lay down rules, enforce rules, provide resources, and assess whether it is in fact moving toward its goals.
Policy analysts have identified the stages of policy making. There are three pre-policy and four policy stages. The policy stages feed back into the pre-policy stages, as the process begins anew.
Consider the process that produced the recent Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. For many years, analysts and health advocates had identified serious problems with the nation's health care system, including millions of people with no form of health insurance. Rising costs and inadequate coverage led to increasing policy demands for reform. President Obama placed the issue on the national agenda. With a Democratic majority in Congress, he successfully enacted major health care legislation. Now, we are engaged in the difficult process of putting the new law into action. All levels of government are engaged, and opponents of the reform refuse to implement such provisions as the expansion of Medicaid. Policy evaluation will be ongoing, assessing whether the legislation is reaching its goals, at what cost, and with what level of benefit. Experience with the new health care system will reveal new problems that must be addressed, and the process of policy change will resume with problem definition.
Graphic showing a circle of pre-policy stages moving to policy stages. Pre-policy is problem definition, to policy demands, to agenda formation. Policy stages are policy adoption to policy implementation to policy evaluation to problem re-definition.
Problem Definition (issues formation)-> policy demands-> Agenda formation-_ Policy adoption_ Policy implementation(outputs impacts tangible and symbolic)_Policy evaluation (Normative/empirical, intended/unintended consequences, direct/indirect impacts, direct/indirect cost)_ Problem re-definition
Models of policy
•Institutional model ◦Which actor has the most influence?
◦Example: Congressional committees
•Policy agenda is determined outside government
•Group bargaining and pluralism
◦Citizens form organizations that give them influence to affect policy
•Rational and public choice theory
◦Political actors maximize their own benefits over costs
◦Strategic behavior, rational decision making
Political scientists are interested in the social, political, and cultural factors that lead the country to choose one policy direction rather than another. This topic is about who has the power.
The institutional model looks to the rules governing the processing of policy to identify which actor has the most influence on a given issue. For instance, Congress assigns legislative proposals to committees with jurisdiction over specific issues, such as agricultural policy. Sending a bill to a given committee can determine its fate, thus setting policy on that issue.
Elite theory suggests that the major debates are settled mostly outside government, as the small segment of society with real power decides which objectives to pursue and how to do so. Top corporate leaders, along with a handful of high-level decision makers in government, set the country's direction and manage public opinion so the people will go along with their decisions.
By contrast, group bargaining and pluralist models say citizens form organizations that will give them the influence to affect policy. Contending groups bargain and, most often, compromise, so policy tends to reflect the distribution of interests across American society.
Rational choice and public choice models assume that all political actors attempt to maximize their own benefits over costs. They engage in strategic behavior, employing a rational decision-making process, to pursue their goals.
Health care Reform
•Group bargaining ◦Negotiations and compromise among health care providers, insurance companies, patient advocacy organizations, etc.
◦Democratic outcome with all important interests represented
•Elite model ◦Only major corporations
◦Ensure profits for doctors, hospitals, and providers
For example, consider again the recent health care reform.
A group bargaining model would suggest that the legislation emerged from negotiation and compromise among health care providers, insurance companies, patient advocacy organizations, and others. The result, then, should be a fairly democratic outcome of a process in which all important interests are represented.
An elite model would tell us that only the major corporations were major players, and therefore the reform selected continued to rely on private insurance companies, and to ensure the perpetuation of high profits for doctors, hospitals, and other providers. The best solution to meet stated goals might have been absent from the discussion, if it did not fit corporate interests.
Which of the following is not a public policy?
Supreme Court rulings on the rights of the accused in a criminal trial
Walmart's decision to contract with suppliers in China
The Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of coal mining operations.
A city council's decision to hire more police officers
Walmart's decision to contract with suppliers in China
American Values and Public Policy
Liberal and conservative
•An economic system based on free enterprise
What role should government play?
Tradition vs. progress through reform
•Conservatives: Existing institutions reflect collective wisdom of society
◦Example: Gay marriage undermines traditional understandings of family
•Liberals: Rational people, with the scientific method and tools of policy analysis, can identify opportunities for reform that will improve lives ◦Example: Gay marriage should be recognized; social values have changed
Public policy is, of course, influenced by political beliefs. Most Americans occupy the broad middle of political beliefs defined by the debates between liberals and conservatives.
Despite the appearance of strident disagreements between the two camps, they do agree on certain broad values: individual liberty, representative democracy, and an economic system based on free enterprise.
They differ on what role government should play in promoting these ends. Does individual liberty require federal interference in state politics to ensure everyone can exercise the right to vote? Does the free enterprise system require significant government action to prevent economic slumps?
In addition, conservatives and liberals differ on whether tradition or the quest for progress through reform should prevail. Conservatives distrust calls for radical change, believing that existing institutions reflect the collective wisdom of society, and we ought not to pretend we know better how to manage social complexity.
Liberals believe that rational people, equipped with the scientific method and tools of policy analysis, can identify opportunities for reform that will improve people's lives. They reject the notion that these opportunities should be forgone because "that's the way we've always done it."
For example, conservatives insist that gay marriage should be prohibited, because it violates widely held religious beliefs and it undermines traditional understandings of the family. Liberals, by contrast, want same-sex marriages recognized in law, because social values have changed to be more accepting of the idea.
Social Trends and Public Policy
•Economic change ◦Rising inequality
•Diversity ◦Policy must address issues for people from different backgrounds, values, identities
Broad social trends result in new issues rising to the top of the public agenda.
For example, rising inequality and high unemployment are putting issues pertaining to jobs, wages, and the tax burden at the forefront of public concern.
In addition, the US population is aging, which leads to greater concern about paying for medical expenses and retirement income for the elderly.
The US population is also becoming more diverse. Consequently, policy must address a wide range of issues that affect people with different backgrounds, values, and identities
•Public policy is about government action to achieve a goal or purpose ◦Important to people living in the US and around the world
•Scholars employ a variety of models to understand policy making ◦Different answers to the question of who determines policy
•American values and social trends shape the context in which policy is made ◦Boundaries of debate
◦Set of policy options that are morally, socially, and politically acceptable
In sum, public policy is important to all people living in the United States and to the millions affected by US actions around the world.
Public policy is about government actions to achieve common goals or purposes.
Scholars investigate a wide range of models of political power that suggest different answers to the question of who determines which policies we pursue.
American values and social trends shape the context within which American public policy is made, including the boundaries of debate and the set of policy options that will be morally, socially, and politically acceptable.
the making of policy
•Contexts for public policy ◦Social, political, economic, demographic, ideological and cultural factors affect everything from problem identification to policy change
•Institutional context ◦Structures and processes of government
◦Multiple agencies and interactions
•Constitutions ◦Define purpose and structure of government
◦Institutional context rests on constitutions ◾US Constitution
•Goal: Strengthen the Union ◦Maintain order, manage economic affairs, defend the country against foreign threats
•Limited government ◦Avoid tyranny
◦Not encroach on other areas of life
•Separated and checked power ◦President, Congress, courts: No branch dominates policy
•Federalism ◦States: Independent political units ◾Education
◦Federal government addresses issues common to all states ◾Military and defense
Constitutions vary with regard to how they distribute power and responsibility, how laws are made, how much detail they contain, and their view of the proper role of government in society.
The US Constitution was born out of a desire to strengthen the union. The Articles of Confederation had proven inadequate to deal with many problems faced by the thirteen original states. The Founding Fathers sought a stronger union that could maintain order, manage economic affairs, and defend the country against foreign threats.
Yet, the Founding Fathers also feared tyranny, and so they designed a limited government, one that could be strong at what it was intended to do but that would not encroach on other areas of life.
To ensure that no tyranny will emerge, the Constitution relies on separation of powers, and checks and balances. It gives primary responsibility for certain tasks to the Congress, the president, and the courts. It provides that each branch of government will be able to limit the other, so that no branch dominates policy.
In addition, each state retains significant policy authority. The federal system unites independent political units—the states—in a common structure. The states handle issues of concern to their citizens, while issues of common concern to all the people in the union are addressed at the federal level.
For example, the US Constitution empowers the federal government to provide the nation's military forces. Before adoption of the Constitution, each state maintained its own military. This weakened the country against powerful European nations, such as Great Britain, so the Constitution gave that power to a single national authority. By contrast, education policy has been almost entirely a matter of state and local concern. Although the federal government now has a Department of Education, the Constitution did not explicitly allocate education policy to the federal government, as it did with national defense.
•Goal: Limit power of government ◦Post-Civil War
•Extensive bill of rights ◦No long-term incarceration of mentally ill without a jury trial
•Limited, part-time legislature ◦Meets every two years
•Plural executive ◦Weakens governor
◦Responsibilities allocated to different members of executive branch
•Fragmented court system ◦Two supreme courts
◦Judges elected, not appointed
The current Texas Constitution came into being under different circumstances than the federal Constitution. Rather than seeking a stronger government, the authors of the Texas Constitution wanted a weaker, more limited government. This was due to the legacy of post-Civil War Reconstruction, during which state government was seen as encroaching on individual liberty.
To achieve the goal of creating a limited government, the Texas Constitution includes an extensive bill of rights. For example, the Texas Constitution prohibits long-term incarceration of the mentally ill without a jury trial.
The Texas Constitution provides for a limited, part-time legislature as a way to limit state government's power. The legislature is mandated to meet only once every two years for a fairly brief session.
The Texas Constitution weakens the governor by creating a plural executive. This means that responsibilities are allocated to different members of the executive branch, some not accountable to the governor.
The court system is fragmented, including two supreme courts. In addition, many judges are elected by the people, rather than being appointed for their knowledge of the law and demonstrated capacity to decide cases.
What a constitution should not be
•Detailed, statute-like provisions ◦Instead of general framework
•Specific policy directives ◦State government cannot adapt policies to changing circumstances
•Protections for special interests ◦Government cannot adopt policies of public interest
•Limits government's capacity to react to changing circumstances
Accordingly, scholars have said that the Texas Constitution is what a constitution should not be.
Rather than provide a general framework for the making of laws and policies, it contains much detail that might better be handled in normal legislation.
It ties government's hands with specific policy directives so that state government cannot adapt policies in these areas to changing circumstances.
In some cases, the specific provisions of the constitution protect special interests, preventing government from adopting policies in the public interest in these areas.
In general, Texas state government is often unable to respond to new demands, such as the recent economic crisis, due to limits the constitution places on its capacity to a
•State government unable to respond to new demands ◦Limited to certain taxes
◦Issues receive inadequate attention
•Local governments have limited policy authority to address local needs
•Special interests have many access points
•Governor is not in charge of entire executive branch
•Coherent policy is difficult to achieve
The Texas Constitution places even greater checks on policy making than does the US Constitution. Consequently, the difficulties of making policy seen in the federal government are magnified in Texas government.
With many specific policy directives written into the constitution, Texas government can find it difficult to develop policies to address new circumstances. For instance, the constitution limits the ability of Texas to impose certain types of taxes. Without revenue sources that are available to other states and to the federal government, Texas may find it difficult to address the challenges of a modernizing, growing society. Also, the provision that the state legislature meet only once every two years means many important issues receive inadequate attention or are ignored altogether.
The Texas Constitution places many restrictions on local governments. The many specific policy directives in the Constitution can prevent responses to local needs.
Low salaries and limited sessions may make it difficult for the Texas legislature to operate as a professional body and make it more reliant on business interests for income and research on policy matters.
The plural executive means that the governor is not in charge of the entire executive branch. Several high-level officials are elected independently and do not answer to the governor. Consequently, achieving coherent policy across the administration can be difficult when different officials have different views and agendas.
The Constitutional System and Public Policy
•Incremental change ◦Because of limited, divided government
◦Adaptations at the margins instead of radical change
•Uncertain public interest
•Incoherence and volatility ◦Frequent elections
◦Openness to organized interests
◦Address issues that are in the public mind
•Reliance on courts ◦Example: protection for those accused of crimes
The constitutional system that governs the United States has certain effects on the character of public policy.
One attribute is that limited, divided government results in a strong tendency toward incremental change. This means that policy change occurs slowly, with adaptations at the margins rather than radical alteration of existing arrangements.
Another attribute is that it is difficult to formulate and implement rational policies that reflect a widely understood public interest. Frequent elections, the openness of government to organized interests, and a tendency to address issues as they rise and fall in the public's mind lead to incoherent, inconsistent policy.
Americans often resort to the courts to settle policy debates that the legislative process has failed to handle. For example, with regard to protections for individuals, legislatures find it difficult to enact laws that protect those accused of crimes, but courts can do so by appealing to the Constitution. Thus, the public will accept politically unpopular but sensible policy.
The constitutional system and public policy
•Ease of access ◦Public input
•Parochialism ◦Representatives more concerned about issues of their own constituents than national or public interest
•Process over substance
•Methods over purposes ◦Avoid confronting fundamental disagreements
The American system of government is democratic in spirit. Consequently, policy making is open to public input. In practice, this means that those most interested in a particular law or regulation will have the most say. Special interests pay close attention to such things as tax laws that affect their incomes. Motivated groups can block action on issues, even when a majority of the American people favors policy change. This ease of access contributes to incremental policy making.
The federal system tends toward parochialism. Representatives of states and congressional districts are more concerned with the issues facing their constituents than they are with a broadly conceived national or public interest.
Rather than tackle difficult questions of purpose, policy makers often debate matters of process. Likewise, they will avoid larger debates over the country's goals and purposes by debating how to achieve goals that are considered outside legitimate policy discussion. Debating process and method rather than purposes avoids confronting fundamental disagreements on which political actors might not be able to negotiate and compromise.
•Policy making occurs in broader context of social forces
•Institutional context rest on the fundamental laws embodied in constitutions
•Constitutional design affects attributes of public policies
The study of public policy should always take into consideration the broader context of social forces in which public policy is created and develops.
One of the most important contexts for policy making is the institutional context.
Constitutions are the fundamental rules that define the purposes and structure of government, and how government is to carry out its tasks. The institutional context rests on the constitutional foundation.
Thus, constitutional design significantly affects the making of public policy at the federal and state levels.
In this Animated Learning Module, you will learn about domestic policy and the policy-making process. A policy is an effort to accomplish a particular goal. The goal of domestic policy is to achieve a desirable outcome depending on the issue. The fact that it is domestic means it pertains to the homeland of the United States. For example, if crime rates are high, the policy would attempt to reduce crime rates.
The Policy Making Process
A policy has to be originated and developed. This is called the Policy-Making Process and it consists of five steps or stages.
The first step is identifying a problem, which puts it on the agenda. This is called agenda building.
Because numerous problems exist, their solutions are impossible until they are identified by policymakers. Typically, this occurs through public debate.
Policymakers also rely on their constituents, interest groups, and the media to bring policy problems to their attention.
Ultimately, the identification of a problem, the reaction to the problem, and the solution all form the policy process.
This may come about through crisis, through the lobbying efforts of interest groups, or through others concerned about the problem.
The second step is policy formulation. This consists of the debate that occurs among government officials and the public in the media, in Congress, and through campaigns.
The third step is policy adoption. This is the selection of a strategy for addressing the problem from the solutions discussed.
The fourth step is policy implementation. This is the administration of the policy adopted by bureaucrats, the courts, and others.
The final step is policy evaluation. Groups evaluate the policy to determine if it has had the desired impact. The feedback evaluates unintended consequences of the policy adoption. The feedback is also considered part of the agenda building and formulation process.
Now, let's take a look at six areas of concern in America.
The first is health care. Health care can mean different things to different people; however, the one concern everyone seems to have is cost and how to pay for it.
Government spending on healthcare has gone up significantly over time. Compared to other advanced industrial countries, our spending as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product is exceptionally high; double the rate of some countries.
Why is that the case? Let's take a look.
The rising cost of health care can be attributed to our aging population. If we are living longer, we need more care and that care is often more expensive.
Advanced technology helps physicians and hospitals prolong human life. This ongoing process, of developing new technology, contributes to the cost because advanced diagnostic machinery is very expensive.
The government funds about 45% of health care spending, private insurance provides about 35%, and individuals and charities fund the rest. This creates inflation because it removes much of the market mechanism that keeps prices low when there is competition.
Medicare and Medicaid are examples of government spending on health care.
Medicare is a federal health insurance program that covers US residents over the age of 65. The costs are met by a tax on wages and salaries. When created in 1965, Medicare did not cover medicine. Beginning in 2006, the Medicare program began paying partial medicine costs. Medicare is the second most expensive federal program after Social Security. To contain costs, the government has placed caps on payments for procedures, with mixed results. Some health care providers will not serve Medicare clients now.
Medicaid is a joint state and federal program that provides medical care to the poor, including indigent elderly persons in nursing homes. The program is funded out of general government revenues.
Medicaid spending has exploded in part because the income ceiling for Medicaid eligibility has increased, making it a more attractive option for low-income workers than the health insurance offered by their employers.
While the federal government pays almost 60% of Medicaid's costs, the portion paid by the states has increased rapidly.
The uninsured also contribute to cost. 15% of the population lack health insurance, and 35% of working Hispanic Americans lack coverage.
The uninsured employed often work for small businesses, who find it hard to supply health insurance to their employees, since it costs $9,000 or more per employee. Many working uninsured are young and healthy, although a health catastrophe for such a person could force the business into bankruptcy.
Finally, a special problem of shifting costs occurs with the uninsured because many health care providers charge the uninsured higher rates for services than the insured. This occurs because insurance companies and the government have the power to negotiate lower prices for their clients.
Congress recently enacted the National Health Care Reform, which will change the system as we know it. The United States is the only advanced industrial country that does not have a system of universal health insurance run by the government. Such systems have lower administrative expenses than the US system, but may have trouble controlling spending on unnecessary procedures
Our next area of concern deals with pollution, which has made environmental policy an important part of domestic policy.
A major source of concern for the general public has been the emission of pollutants into the air and water. Early in the 20th century, environmentalism focused on wilderness and land use issues. Conservation was a policy under which natural resources were used, but not abused. In contrast, preservation called for natural preserves that were isolated from the effects of human activity.
Beginning in the 1960's, a new movement arose that was more focused on pollution. A series of well-publicized pollution catastrophes helped bring attention to the problem.
Ecology became a concern in the 1970's as some environmentalists began to advocate policies that were a radical elaboration of the old preservationist philosophy. Many even claimed that the human race itself was the problem.
The public had a growing awareness of environmental problems throughout the 1970's and 1980's. Major environmental problems, like oil spills and toxic waste sites, led the government to formulate a long-term policy aimed at protecting the environment without causing major damage to the economy. The following polices reflect the government's recognition of the need to protect the environment.
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 attempted to set national standards by assessing the impact on the environment of major federal projects, such as road construction and buildings. Such projects could not be started without first receiving an environmental impact statement.
In 1990, amendments were added to the Clean Air Act of 1963, which constituted a comprehensive policy mandating cleaner air in urban areas. Utility plant emission levels were monitored, in which the plants worked to significantly reduce their amount of carbon monoxide emissions. Automobile manufacturers were required to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide progressively until 2007.
The Clean Water Act of 1972 amended the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948. The Clean Water Act sought to make waters safe for swimming, to protect fish and wildlife, and to eliminate the discharge of pollutants into the water. The Clean Water Act is controversial because of its broad definition of wetlands and its migratory bird rule. Wetlands are subject to prohibitions on filling and dredging. The migratory bird rule applies to any waters suitable for use by migratory birds. It is subject to regulations similar to that of the wetlands.
Critics of our environmental policy contend that these restrictions cost jobs and negatively affect the economy. There are substantial costs involved in these policies.
One method of supporting cost-effective solutions was part of the Clean Air Act of 1990. The act capped overall national sulfur dioxide emissions, but also permitted free trade in rights to emit sulfur dioxide. As a result, the sulfur dioxide emissions were made by the companies reaping the greatest economic advantage from their right to emit.
Air and water pollution is down dramatically from what it was in the past. Lead content in the air is 3% lower than its original levels. Sulfur dioxide is down by 4/5ths.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 made it illegal to kill or harm a species listed as endangered or threatened. The government prevented landowners from engaging in development that would harm a listed species. Restrictions on development and on property rights in general have made the Endangered Species Act controversial.
Energy policy is concerned with how much energy is needed and used and with the regulation of energy producers. This becomes important during a crisis. The US has always had enormous energy resources; however, the American economy depends almost entirely on fossil fuels, such as oil, coal, and natural gas, most of which are imported.
Because of the effects of producing and consuming energy, energy policy is deeply entangled with environmental policy. A series of laws passed over the last 20 years has forced cities to reduce smog and to require cleaner burning gasoline. Congress has also mandated that 10% of fuels sold in the years to come include ethanol as an ingredient. As the cost of energy rises, however, the debate intensifies over domestic power production, such as offshore drilling and electric power generated by coal-fired plants.
Nuclear power has been an unpopular solution. Nuclear power plants are very efficient and emit low levels of greenhouse gases. However, accidents that occurred more than 20 years ago have almost destroyed any support for nuclear power in the US. Not only do people fear the possibility of an accident at such a plant, but nuclear plants also provide a superb target for terrorist attacks. Finally, nuclear plants produce spent fuel that must be stored until it is safe.
A number of alternative sources of energy can be used to reduce the nation's dependence on fossil fuels. Wind farms generate energy for cities, and research continues on harnessing the power of ocean waves and geothermal energy. However, the technology does not yet exist to use any of these sources to produce the quantity of energy needed to replace coal plants or other current energy sources. Rising gas prices have spurred a much greater demand for hybrid and other more fuel-efficient cars, encouraging people to ride motor scooters for city commutes, and increasing the use of mass transit.
Poverty and Welfare
Poverty and welfare relate to income transfers, and transfers of income relate to individuals in the economy.
The low-income population is considered to be in poverty because of a government devised system beginning in 1963, which based poverty on family income in comparison to the cost of a nutritious food plan.
All families whose income level was not at least three times larger than the food plan were classified as below the poverty line.
Since 1969, the government has revised the formula based on changes in the consumer price index.
The government makes transfer payments to them in the form of programs like food stamps and housing vouchers.
The 2009 budget allocated about 1/4 of all federal expenditures to programs that supported persons of limited income.
More than 1/4 of this amount was for Medicaid.
The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 created Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, also known as, TANF. TANF is a state-administered block grant program. The states, not the national government, now bear the burden of any increased welfare spending.
The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 had several key components. A key provision called for devolution of the welfare system. Most welfare recipients are now limited to two years of assistance at one time, with a lifetime limit of five years. The act sought to reduce the number of people receiving benefits, in fact, the number has been cut about in half.
Basic welfare is often criticized on several grounds. Some believe it reduces the incentive to find work. Others say it is anti-marriage because it makes it easier for unmarried mothers to get by.
Supplemental Security Income was established as part of Social Security in 1974 to provide a minimum income for the aged, the blind, and the disabled.
Food Stamps were designed to help provide adequate nutrition for low-income families. The program began as a twofold mission to help farmers sell surplus products and to eliminate malnutrition.
The Earned Income Tax Credit helps lower-income workers by providing a rebate on Social Security taxes.
Although each of these policies attempts to benefit the poor, there are many homeless individuals and families in America.
Homelessness has always been a problem and continues to be an important one. Estimates are that on any given night there are anywhere from 200,030-700,050 people who are homeless.
The fastest growing sub-group of the homeless are families.
Slide 7: Immigration
Immigration is another controversial and salient issue. Immigration has shaped American society from the very beginning; however, one of the questions facing the country today is the effect of immigration on the present and future society. Will immigration have a positive or negative impact on the US?
Immigration rates are now higher since their peak in the early 20thcentury.
About a million people immigrate to this country each year. Immigrants expand the workforce and drive wages lower, and many illegal immigrants use services such as emergency rooms and public education, which drive up costs.
In 2006, the controversy over illegal immigration reached a boiling point as some argued that jobs were being lost, wages were being depressed, and services were stretched to the breaking point. In response, hundreds of thousands took to the streets protesting in favor of immigrants and their rights. Congress split over the issue, with some members favoring amnesty for illegal immigrants, some favoring a plan for the gradual awarding of citizenship, and others wanting to send illegal immigrants back to their home countries. Congress authorized the construction of a 700 mile fence between the US and Mexico. There would be a physical fence in some areas and a virtual fence in other areas, using cameras and surveillance technologies. Some states and cities have enacted laws making it illegal for undocumented residents to access public services or to get drivers' licenses.
Slide 8: Crime in the Twenty-First Century
Finally, we consider crime. In 2006, overall crime rates in the US dropped below those in many other countries, such as Britain. Nonetheless, virtually all polls taken in the US in the last 10 years have shown that crime remains a major concern.
Crime has always been considered a problem in American society. After rising for many years, violent crime rates have come down over the last 10 years. One explanation might be the large number of perpetrators who have been sent to prison. Increased spending on law enforcement has also been suggested as a reason. One study even claimed that legalized abortion has had a major effect in reducing the population likely to commit crimes.
Juvenile crime rates are dropping as well. Curfews and boot camps are two solutions that have been advanced. Increasingly, young offenders are being tried as adults, especially for violent offenses.
School shootings occur not only in secondary schools but also in elementary schools and on college campuses. The perception of school shootings as a growing form of violence has been reinforced by the media, even when homicide rates in schools declined from 1993 to 2002. However, students continue to face less risk of serious violent crimes while at school than outside of school.
Stiff sentences are now national policy. By 2008, the number of persons held in jail or prison exceeded 2.3 million. Why has the prison population grown so much when the crime rate has been declining in the last decade? Many states and localities have increased the list of crimes for which a criminal may receive a mandatory sentence. Also, many individuals who are in prison were convicted of drug offenses, which carry automatic sentences for a specified length of time.
We refer to the number of persons held in jail or prison for every 100,000 persons in a particular population group the incarceration rate. Today, the rate for US men is 1,309 and for US women, 113. Among the most frequently incarcerated demographic group are non-Hispanic black men aged 25 to 29. Their rate is a stratospheric 11,955.
The US has more people in jail or prison than any other country in the world, and the US has the highest reported incarceration rate of any country on earth, which is not surprising since it also has one of the world's largest total populations.
Imprisonment keeps violent felons from committing additional crimes. The majority of all persons arrested each year are arrested for drug offenses. 20-40 million people may violate the drug laws each year, so the supply of potential prisoners seems virtually limitless.
One of the major causes of crime in the US is the use and sale of illegal drugs. Illegal drug sales can result in violence because of turf wars between rival drug gangs. Dealers operate outside the justice system and therefore resort to violence to settle disputes, and drug users may resort to crime to finance their drugs. State and local governments have been attempting new remedies to curtail the drug problem. One strategy includes sentencing drug offenders to rehabilitation, rather than prison.
Probably the most devastating type of crime is terrorism because of its potential to inflict violence on thousands of victims. After the attacks of September 11th, the federal government enacted many policies in an effort to combat terrorism. Some policies enjoyed widespread public support; others did not. What seems clear, however, is that counter-terrorism strategies will necessarily be a part of federal government policy for years to come.
The energy policy of the United States _____.
is closely related to environmental policy
The policy making process starts with _____.
Counterterrorism policy _____.
will remain an important part of the federal government's agenda for years to come
A domestic policy is one that _____.
pertains to the homeland of the United States
What is the goal of policy?
To achieve a desirable outcome on an issue
The goals of economic policy are _____.
growth, stability, low unemployment, and low interest rates
Taxes are a means of generating revue for the government. However, taxes
take money out of the economy
A recession is defined as _____.
decline of the gross domestic product (GDP) over two economic quarters
Monetary policy deals with _____.
the supply of money in the economy
The gross domestic product (GDP) is a _____.
measure of the economy tied to what is produced
Depression began with
the Black Tuesday market crash of 1929
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided
temporary relief programs
Adam Smith, the Father of Economics, argued that _____.
a free market economy works to the greatest advantage of all who participate in it
Prohibition banned the
the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors
The Gold Standard Act _____.
established gold as the only standard for redeeming paper money
Who is best positioned to fight climate change?
The world's governments, working together
How is climate change related to biodiversity?
Biodiversity suffers as a result of climate change
Climate change _____.
could cause serious disruptions in the world's food supply by affecting agriculture
What is one of the leading causes of climate change?
Human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels
What is the first thing world governments can do to fight climate change?
Stabilize global green house gas emissions
The Innocence Project uses DNA evidence to attempt to prove innocence. Prosecutors or courts agree to send tests to labs where they can conduct tests on evidence connected to a case. The Innocence Project reports that DNA proves their clients innocent about as often as it suggests they are guilty. The testing can cost over $1,000 per test.
About how often does DNA testing prove Innocence Project clients are innocent?
About as often as it suggests guilt
Texas law passed in 2001 and amended in 2011 provides for compensation for wrongfully convicted people. A wrongfully convicted person is entitled to $80,000 for each year he or she was wrongfully incarcerated. He or she can also be compensated for child support payments and tuition at a career center or public institution of higher learning. They are also eligible to buy into the Texas State Employee Health Plan.
Which of the following is a wrongfully convicted person entitled to?
$80,000 for each year he or she was wrongfully incarcerated
In rare circumstances, the Innocence Project has been able to help exonerate clients using means other than DNA testing. For example, the Innocence Project helped exonerate George Allen Jr. after he served 30 years in prison. Read about the case here: http://www.innocenceproject.org/cases-false-imprisonment/george-allen-jr
Which of the following was NOT a factor in the false confession given by George Allen Jr
Violence by police officers
There are many reasons why defendants are wrongfully convicted. The Innocence Project points out eye witness misidentification, flawed forensics, false confessions, or false informants as reasons for wrongful convictions. They suggest that there are several ways to make the system more accurate, including changing how police administer lineups, adding oversight to forensics procedures, and recording interrogations to reduce false confessions. The Innocence Project supports a complete moratorium on capital punishment until the causes of wrongful convictions are fully identified and remedied.
Which of the following is NOT a cause of wrongful convictions?
The Innocence Project makes it a priority to improve existing laws in order to prevent wrongful convictions. They support reform in the criminal justice system that reflect lessons learned by wrongful convictions. Thanks to efforts by the Innocence Project and other organizatinos, progress has been made in almost every state toward a fairer and more accurate criminal justice system, but there is still significant work to be done!
One of the goals of the Innocence Project is to _____.
improve laws and prevent wrongful convictions
•Economic policy: high priority
•2008 financial crisis ◦High unemployment
◦Sluggish economic growth
•The Beltway ◦Deficit reduction
Recent experience has elevated economic issues even higher than they usually are for the American people. The financial crisis of September 2008 resulted in years of high unemployment and sluggish economic growth.
The chart shows the unemployment rate from 2003 to 2012. It shows that in 2007 unemployment had fallen almost to 4 percent, a rate that most people consider acceptable. The unemployment rate had begun to rise before the crisis hit, and it jumped up as financial problems spread throughout the economy. After reaching nearly 10 percent, it fell to around 8 percent, where it stayed for many months. Such a high unemployment rate represents a large amount of lost production as well as hardship for families across the country.
While the public wants government to bring down the high unemployment rate, policy makers in Washington, DC—inside the Beltway—turn their attention to deficit reduction. Economists generally believe that deficit reduction during a time of high unemployment makes it more difficult to generate new jobs. The public and policy makers seem to have defined the problem differently.
In this unit, you will explore the complexities of economic policy and learn about government regulation of business as well as government management of the economy.
Key economic concepts
•System for producing and distributing goods and services
•Free enterprise: open marketplace
•Market failure ◦Example: pollution
•Business cycle ◦Government intervention
•Value of money ◦Inflation
An economy is a social system for producing and distributing goods and services. Every society has some form of an economy, for we must provide the necessities of life if we are to have society at all.
Societies differ in how they organize economic life. In the United States, the economy relies primarily on free enterprise. Free enterprise means that firms and businesses compete in an open market for customers. Prices are set in competitive markets by supply and demand, and no authority makes decisions as to what to produce and in what quantities. The profit motive drives businesses, while consumers are guided by their individual desires to maximize their own well-being.
Ideally, the free enterprise system is self-regulating. Impersonal forces of supply and demand ensure that goods and services are produced efficiently and all resources are employed. Yet, market failure does occur. Pollution is an example of market failure; there is no way to ensure that the costs created by pollution are included in the costs of doing business without some form of government intervention.
In addition, free enterprise economies experience business cycles. That is, at some times, they are operating at full employment, while at others they fall significantly below full employment. Markets usually adjust, so a slumping economy comes out of it, but government can act to smooth out the cycles, so the slumps are not so deep or long lasting.
Lastly, because a modern economy employs money, and acquiring money is the main purpose of business activity, the value of money is an important concern. At times, the value of money drops rapidly. That means it takes more of it to buy the same good. Prices rise. When the general level of prices rises, so that the prices of all goods are increasing together, we call it inflation. Too much inflation can damage a country's economic health.
Forms of economic policy
•Regulation ◦Example: safety standards
•Subsidies and tax incentives ◦High taxes on less desirable enterprises
•Infrastructure ◦Roads, bridges, highways
•Fiscal policy ◦Taxing and spending
•Monetary policy ◦Money supply and interest rates
Government has many ways to affect economic activity. One way is to regulate businesses. For instance, to prevent businesses from offering unsafe goods, regulations can require that they be produced according to certain safety standards.
In addition, government can encourage investment in a particular line of business (say, high-tech) by offering direct subsidies or tax breaks to investors. By the same token, it can discourage investment in less desirable enterprises (casinos, for instance) by imposing high taxes.
Government encourages business activity when it provides the necessary infrastructure for businesses to operate efficiently. Roads, bridges, and highways; communications networks; the legal system and more ensure that businesses will have what they need to produce goods and services and deliver them to consumers.
In regard to managing the overall economy, government relies on two sets of tools. Fiscal policy is about the government's budget, which means its taxing and spending policies.
Monetary policy is about managing the supply of money, and managing interest rates. This affects the rate of inflation, and helps set the level of economic activity.
•US largest economy: $16 trillion in 2012
•Goals of macroeconomic policy: ◦Full employment
◦Positive trade balance
The total dollar value of all the goods and services produced by the American economy (its gross national product) in 2012 was more than $16 trillion. The US economy is the largest in the world. Ensuring that this vast, complex economic system functions well has required government management.
The primary goals of macroeconomic policy include full employment. This means that every person willing and able to work can find a job appropriate to his or her skills and abilities. As shown earlier, the US is currently not at full employment.
Macroeconomic policy also aims to ensure the economy grows steadily. The increase of the working age population and advances in technology determine the limit of economic growth. Government policy intends to move the economy as close as possible to its potential economic growth.
Low inflation provides certainty regarding future investments and protects the value of savings. While a little inflation can be a good thing, too much can undermine business confidence as well as destroy the value of families' college funds, pensions, and the like.
A competitive economy produces goods that people in other countries want. When a country sells more goods abroad than it buys, it has a positive trade balance. Ideally, this will result from the efficiency of the country's businesses, but sometimes government will step in to protect its own businesses against foreign competition
Texas Political Economy
•Texas: one of the largest state economies
•Third-largest state budget
•Business interests ◦Labor unions rare
◦Consumer interest groups weak
•Economic change ◦Cotton and cattle ◾Cotton: early 1800s to WWII
◾Cattle: 17th century to after Civil War
◾First half of 20th century
◾Oil taxes fuel economy
◾Significant driver of economy
Texas has one of the largest state economies in the United States, and it has the third-largest state budget, behind only California and New York.
There has always been a strong dominance by business in Texas. Labor unions are rare, except in the oil refinery areas around Beaumont. Consumer interest groups are poorly organized and funded, and the worker has few rights.
There have been three great waves of economic and technological change that have defined the Texas political economy of the last 150 years. The first centered on cotton and cattle. The second grew out of the oil industry. The third is tied to the high-tech economy.
Cotton is one of the oldest crops grown in Texas. Serious cultivation began in the 1800s and by the mid-1800s, Texas was one of the top cotton-producing states in the nation.
Texas still has a thriving cotton industry, but the cotton culture really declined after World War II.
Cattle ranching started in the late 17th century and thrived until after the Civil War. It is still a strong industry in Texas, but but as large operations have replaced many family farms, the number of people making a living from agriculture has dropped significantly.
Major discoveries of oil were made all across Texas in the first half of the 20th century, shifting the Texas economy from agriculture to oil. The oil industry was able to fuel a new industrial revolution in Texas by providing cheap oil. Oil brought a boom-and-bust mentality to the economy of Texas. Populations would explode after an oil or gas strike, leading to poor living conditions as towns became overcrowded. New discoveries would lead to a flood in supply and a drop in prices, and just as quickly as a town became prosperous, it could sink back into depression and become a ghost town.
Oil production taxes have also helped keep the Texas government afloat. Higher education has benefited most of all from oil and gas revenues.
When oil prices rose to $35 per barrel in the early 1980s, many thought the oil-driven economy was recession-proof. However, oil prices began to collapse and bottomed out in 1986 at $10 per barrel. Economic growth in Texas slowed and the economy was forced to transform.
The 1990s saw Texas emerge as a high-tech and manufacturing state. Dallas and Austin were the significant urban areas responsible for the major technology and manufacturing growth that continues to drive the Texas economy today.
Texas economic policy
•Regressive tax structure ◦Tax burden falls more heavily on low-income than high-income people
◦Low tax burden: 7.9%
•Low per-capita spending: 47th in the nation
•Limited state government: light tax burden ◦Business interests
•US economy: free enterprise
•Government plays a role ◦Macroeconomic management: laws, regulations, incentives, infrastructure investment
•Texas economy ◦Business interests
An economy is a system for producing and distributing a society's goods and services.
The US economy is a free enterprise system, which means it is organized primarily around businesses producing for consumer markets to make a profit. Government plays an important role in managing and regulating the economy and business practices.
Tools for microeconomic management include laws, regulations, incentives, and infrastructure investments. Tools for macroeconomic management include fiscal policy and monetary policy.
Currently, the most prominent policy goals are full employment and economic growth. The inflation rate has been low for decades and so is not a significant concern. But growth has been sluggish and millions of Americans are unemployed or underemployed. The debate over the federal deficit affects whether government will take vigorous action to address these issues or hope that markets will adjust.
Our state has one of the largest economies in the nation. The Texas economy is unique in many ways: it is strongly influenced by business interests and it has a regressive tax system.
In the rest of this unit, we will explore in more depth the role of the US government in the economy as well as Texas economic policies and their significance.
Texas Economic Policy
•Regressive tax structure ◦Tax burden falls more heavily on low-income than high-income people
◦Low tax burden: 7.9%
•Low per-capita spending: 47th in the nation
•Limited state government: light tax burden ◦Business interests
How does Texas raise revenues? How does it spend its funds?
The Texas tax structure is more regressive than that of most states. By "regressive," we mean that the tax burden falls more heavily on low-income people than on high-income people, in terms of share of income going to taxes. Sales taxes constitute the most important share of state tax revenue, and they take much more of a low-income individual's income than a high-income individual's.
At the same time, the overall tax burden in Texas is relatively low compared with other states. Texas collects only 7.9 percent of its citizens' incomes, which is less than all but five other states.
Texas spends less per citizen than most other states on public programs. Texas ranks 47th out of 50 states in per-capita spending. In regard to education, the largest single item in the Texas state budget, Texas ranks 33rd out of 50 states.
Texas taxing and spending reflect the state's history, political culture, and the influence of business interests in state government. As we saw in the discussion of the Texas Constitution, Texans have wanted a limited state government, which means in turn one that imposes a light tax burden. They do not call for state government to provide a wide array of services. Business interests prefer lower taxes in general, and low taxes on business in particular.
The Turning Point
•Complacency ◦Plentiful, cheap energy
•Concern ◦Energy insecurity due to disruptions in energy market
•1973 Arab oil embargo ◦Revealed West's vulnerability
•Encouraging production and consumption ◦Little attention to conservation, efficiency, national energy independence
•Traditional policy decentralized, fragmented ◦No unified policy on oil and energy
American energy policy has fluctuated from times of complacency, when it was assumed that private markets could provide plentiful, cheap energy for a growing economy, to times of concern, when disruptions in the energy market raised the specter of energy insecurity. Accordingly, the federal government has sometimes been highly active in energy policy and at other times relatively passive.
In 1973, Arab countries in OPEC, or the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, decided to use oil as weapon in their struggle with Israel. Up to then, it had appeared that Western oil companies, backed by powerful governments, were in control of world oil supplies. The embargo revealed the West's vulnerability to a loss of access to oil resources.
Before the embargo, US policy had been a mix of state and federal actions designed to encourage production and consumption. Little attention was paid to conservation, efficiency, or national energy independence. The United States was not well prepared for the Arab embargo, and it had serious effects on the American economy.
In line with American values and ideology, energy policy had been primarily oriented toward free enterprise. Government had not taken on the responsibility of developing a national policy on oil and energy. Large corporations could make important decisions regarding energy production in a fragmented, decentralized policy context, giving them considerable freedom of action.
Energy Problems Emerge
20th century: •Maximum production and consumption
•US imports of oil rise
•Natural gas abundant but poorly regulated
•Alternatives not developed ◦No investment in solar
◦Geothermal: little success
◦Wind power: not a significant source
•Global demand rises ◦Demand for imports rises
◦Middle East instability ◾Turmoil in energy markets
◾Effects on global economy
◾National security concerns
US policy for much of the 20th century was to encourage maximum production of domestic oil, coal, and electricity. Consumers were not persuaded to conserve. High energy use was seen as a sign of affluence. But by the 1960s, US imports of oil had begun to grow, as domestic production could no longer keep up with increasing demand. Growing dependence on foreign oil started to create economic and security problems for the United States.
Natural gas is abundant in the United States, but the resource was poorly regulated. The price for natural gas sold across state lines was set far below the price for gas within a state. This inhibited natural gas production and led to waste.
Meanwhile, alternative energy sources were not well developed. Solar power never received the kind of investment needed to make it viable. Experiments with geothermal energy showed little success. And wind power, although it has been developed recently, could not replace more than a small share of the energy produced using fossil fuels.
Global demand has risen as well. Many countries have little or no fossil fuel resources and thus must rely on imports. Most of the known reserves of conventional oil are found in the volatile Middle East. Consequently, since 1973, the world has experienced considerable turmoil in energy markets, which spills over into the global economy and raises concerns about national security
•Project Independence (1973) ◦National speed limit: 55 mph
◦More lenient standards
◦Department of Energy
◦Still no unified energy policy: US oil imports rise
•National Energy Act (1978) ◦Greater energy efficiency
◦Deregulate natural gas
◦Encourage alternative energy development
◦Corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE): improved fuel efficiency
•Deregulation ◦Boom in exploration and production
◦Abated in 1990s when oil prices dropped
•Renewed belief in abundance
•Energy Policy Act (2005)
The United States has adopted a number of policy initiatives aimed at reducing American dependence on foreign sources of oil. Project Independence was launched in 1973. It called for such measures as a national 55 miles per hour speed limit, relaxation of environmental standards, and creation of a new federal Department of Energy. Yet no unified, coherent energy policy resulted, and US oil imports continued to rise.
The National Energy Act of 1978 sought greater energy efficiency and reduced consumption. It also deregulated natural gas and encouraged alternative energy development. The corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE) standard was also established, which mandated that auto manufacturers improve the fuel efficiency of their fleet of passenger cars.
Deregulation did spur a boom in exploration and production, but it abated when oil prices dropped in the 1990s.
Lower prices due to slowing global demand, conservation at home, and competition among oil producing countries to win market share meant less attention to conservation and independence. This led to renewed willingness to believe that energy resources were cheap and plentiful, and would continue to be well into the future.
Although the 2005 Energy Policy Act included some provisions for conservation and alternative energy, the main tendency was toward maximizing domestic production and ensuring access to Middle East and other oil reserves
No way out?
•Energy use ◦Reliance on oil and natural gas
◦Coal more important
◦Nuclear and hydroelectric power
◦No clear substitute for petroleum
•Conservation and alternatives not adequate
•Growing global demand ◦Tighter supplies
◦Competition for secure fossil fuel resources
•Unconventional fossil fuels ◦Shale oil
Energy consumption patterns show a continued reliance on oil and natural gas, increased importance of coal, and reliance on nuclear and hydroelectric power. Although efforts to find alternatives are underway, no clear substitute for petroleum has yet appeared.
Conservation measures are not insignificant, but they have not matched increasing energy demand. Wind power has been the most successful alternative, but it provides only a fraction of US energy needs. Falling oil prices made development of alternatives unprofitable, and oil imports have continued to grow, now accounting for nearly two-thirds of American oil consumption.
Meanwhile, China and India are developing rapidly, moving from peasant agriculture to manufacturing and industry. Both have limited domestic oil reserves, so they are turning to world markets for oil, leading to tighter supplies and possible future competition for secure fossil fuel resources. In this context, the continuing instability in the Middle East, home to the world's largest known reserves of oil, becomes more troubling.
Recently, the United States has seen development of unconventional fossil fuels. These include shale oil, tar sands, and "fracking" to recover previously unrecoverable oil and natural gas. The possibility of opening up vast new fossil fuel resources may lead the country back to energy independence. But the result may be catastrophic global climate change as well.
The Rise of Environmental Concerns
•Industrialization and population growth ◦Concern about effect of human activities on nature
•Conservation ◦National Park System
◦More rational management of resources ◾Example: apply scientific forestry principles to publicly owned timberlands
•Indifference, neglect, and abuse
•The environmental movement ◦Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
•Legislation and regulation to mitigate environmental damage from modern industrial life
For many years, Americans could ignore environmental issues. The country was vast and resources were plentiful. Yet, as the Western world industrialized and the populations of industrialized nations grew, the effect of human activities on the natural world became too great to ignore.
The earliest manifestation of a rising environmental consciousness was the movement for conservation. Conservationists advocated preserving particularly beautiful areas, limiting human access or development. Thus, the country created the National Park System, which includes such well-known sites as Yellowstone Park, the nation's first national park. In addition, conservationists called for more rational management of resources; for example, they advocated applying scientific forestry principles to the management of publicly owned timberlands.
Yet, for the larger part of the country, outside the national parks and national forests, pollution, deforestation, destruction of natural habitats, and rapid development prevailed. By the 1960s, it was clear that the country needed to face issues of air pollution, water pollution, hazardous waste disposal, and unwise land use patterns.
Several best-selling books had been written that sounded the alarm, such as Rachel Carson's influential Silent Spring. Moreover, shocking events such as the Cuyahoga River catching on fire led to calls for policies that would reduce environmental harms. Rising concern culminated in 1970 in a nationwide event, Earth Day, that drew attention to environmental issues. The environmental movement entered the national policy stage and the result was a wave of legislation and regulation aimed at mitigating the environmental damage that results from modern industrial life
National Environmental Policy Act (1970) ◦Federal leadership
◦Council on Environmental Quality
◦Environmental impact statement for projects involving federal funds
•Environmental Protection Agency ◦Regulations for environmental protection
•Water quality ◦Water Quality Act (1965) ◾Federal funds for municipal sewage treatment plants
◾Standard-setting and enforcement done by states
◦Clean Waters Restoration Act (1966), Water Pollution Control Act amendments (1972), Safe Drinking Water Act (1974)
•Air quality ◦Amendments to Clean Air Act (1970)
◦EPA responsible for establishing and enforcing air quality standards
•Land pollution ◦Superfund ◾Money for cleaning up hazardous waste
◾Controversy: mountaintop removal to get to coal seams
The passage of the National Environmental Policy Act was one of the most important signs of the effects of the environmental movement. NEPA emphasized federal leadership, created the Council on Environmental Quality, and required environmental impact statements for any project involving federal funds or assets. In addition, Congress established the Environmental Protection Agency to promulgate regulations for environmental protection.
Until the 1960s, primary responsibility for pollution laws belonged to the states. The 1965 Water Quality Act, for instance, provided federal funds for constructing municipal sewage treatment plants but left standard-setting and enforcement to the states. The idea was that a state would be more vigilant in protecting its own environment than a distant federal government would be, but that proved not to be true. Consequently, the federal government asserted its authority to set standards in the Clean Waters Restoration Act (1966), Water Pollution Control Act amendments (1972), and the Safe Drinking Water Act (1974).
Similarly, the federal government stepped up its role in air pollution policy. In 1970, Congress passed amendments to the Clean Air Act that signaled a major change in air pollution policy. Congress gave the EPA responsibility for establishing and enforcing air quality standards.
With regard to land pollution, one of the most important measures was to create the Superfund. The Superfund's purpose was to provide money for cleaning up hazardous waste sites. By 1984, the EPA had identified more than 17,000 waste disposal sites in need of cleanup operations. Currently, one of the most controversial land use issues is the coal industry's use of mountaintop removal to get at coal seams.
Return and Resistance
•Business fights back
•Cost-benefit analysis and the environment ◦Weighs economic gains more heavily
◦Authorizes environmentally harmful actions
•The regulatory process ◦Expertise
◦Financial resources for studies
By 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected, the costs of addressing environmental challenges had become more obvious than they had been when the environmental movement was riding high. Businesses resisted regulation, fighting back on a number of fronts. For one, they claimed that much of environmental regulation was built on emotion rather than good science. Business interests enjoy advantages in the political struggle over environmental policy. Business is well practiced in the art of lobbying Congress.
Business interests successfully argued for a cost-benefit approach to environmental regulation. This called on regulators to show that the benefits of a new regulation would be greater than the economic costs. Yet, putting a value on such things as the loss of an endangered species can be difficult. Cost-benefit analysis can tend to weigh economic gains more heavily and thus authorize environmentally harmful actions.
Business is well equipped to argue its case in the regulatory process. The making of regulations inevitably requires close attention, expertise in the process, and the financial resources to produce evidence and studies that support one's policy preferences. Citizen movements are often short on such resources, while business groups have them in ample supply.
Accordingly, the years since the wave of environmental legislation passed in the 1970s have seen considerable resistance and significant rollbacks in some areas. For example, mountaintop removal continues, despite the protests of citizens living near these operations, and serious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have yet to be seen.
The global environment
•Domestic concerns dominate
•Changing agenda ◦1967: The Torrey Canyon accident in England
◦1972: International conference to address global concerns ◾World Heritage Sites
The early years of environmental policy and legislation were devoted almost entirely to domestic concerns. The United States had participated in international efforts to protect migratory birds, but air, water, and land pollution were seen as issues best handled within the country.
Several important international issues were on the agenda as early as the 1960s. For instance, in 1967, the Torrey Canyon, one of the first oil supertankers, ran aground off the coast of England, leading to international negotiations involving the United States aimed at reducing marine oil pollution.
By 1972, the rise of environmental consciousness had led to an international conference held in Stockholm, Sweden, to address matters of global concern. The Nixon administration sent a high-level delegation to the meeting and forwarded a number of important initiatives, such as the creation of World Heritage Sites around the globe. The United States led the way on protecting the oceans, and its strong domestic record lent great credibility to American calls for more effective protection of the global environment.
A decade later, one of the most prominent issues would be the inherently global problem of global warming. The United States is one of the top sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and it is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Consequently, American enthusiasm for global environmental policies began to wane. Rather than leading on global environmental issues, the United States joined the laggards that were holding policy back.
Some environmentalists hoped this would change with the election of Barack Obama to the White House. They have been disappointed. President Obama provided weak leadership, say his critics, at the Copenhagen conference on climate change. Other issues his critics point to include the Keystone pipeline project (to transport Canadian tar sands crude oil to US Gulf Coast refineries). This, said prominent climate scientist James Hansen, will be "game over" for global warming, as it will commit the country and the world to developing immense new reserves of fossil fuels.
Although President Obama did successfully sponsor a significant increase in automobile fuel efficiency standards, the current answer regarding what is to be done about global warming appears to be business as usual.
•From leader to laggard ◦Global warming
◦US top source of green house gas emissions
•Obama administration ◦Climate change
•What is to be done about global warming?
•Direct regulation ◦Government sets standards
◦Industry required to comply with standards
◦Government monitors compliance and enforces regulations
Dissatisfied with overt government regulations, critics have offered alternatives to the direct regulatory approach.
In the direct approach, government sets a standard, such as allowing a factory to emit smoke with so many parts per million of a hazardous substance, such as sulfur dioxide. The factory owner must show that the smokestack is emitting no more than the government-set standard. Every factory subject to the rules must show the same. The regulatory agency might require specific equipment to reduce emissions. The agency will then monitor the factory, testing its compliance with the standard. Failure to comply will result in fines or other penalties.
By contrast, the notion of pollution credits offers a market-like approach to the problem. In this system, government establishes a cap on the overall amount of a pollutant that can be emitted in a given year. Factory owners are allocated permits to contribute to that overall cap. If the cap is reached while the industry continues to grow, then factories have two options. One is to find new ways to reduce their emissions so they can add capacity without adding to their emissions. The other is to purchase permits from other permit-holders. So if a factory does reduce its emissions, it has a salable commodity in the form of its permit to emit, which it can sell on the open market. The idea is to use market-like incentives to encourage industries to find ways to reduce emissions. No equipment requirements exist. Instead, each factory is free to meet its quota in its own way. This should encourage innovation.
The market-like approach is what the phrase "cap and trade" refers to in terms of dealing with greenhouse gases. Environmentalists believe such a system would fail, while conservative policy makers believe it would be too burdensome on business. Consequently, it has not been adopted
•Market-like incentives ◦Caps on pollution
◦Permits to pollute
◦Free market in pollution credits
◦Encourage innovation and efficiency
•Cap and trade controversial
Whats NOt State Government
•Narrow political base ◦Special interests exert influence
•Conflict between states
As noted, prior to the 1970s, most environmental policy making occurred at the state level. Yet, that proved inadequate, and several problems suggest that a return to state leadership in this area will not work.
State governments often respond to a narrow political base. Public participation in, and attention to, state politics is low. Consequently, special interests are more likely to influence policy. In Texas, the influence of the business community indicates that strong environmental policy is not likely.
In addition, state governments face difficulties in staffing key environmental agencies. Without qualified personnel, enforcing environmental rules is challenging.
Lack of effective coordination between federal and state agencies also hinders state-level policy.
At times, states conflict over environmental and resource issues. Texas and Oklahoma have disputed use of waters from the Red River, for example. Acid rain emissions originate in some states but drift over state lines to pollute others. In such cases, federal involvement is inevitable.
The environment and Hard times
•1950s: "What's good for General Motors is good for America."
•Environment or jobs?
•Green jobs ◦Retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency
◦Producing solar panels
◦Manufacturing hybrid cars
•Future of American economy and society
In the 1950s, Americans generally believed that corporate interests and the national interest, or their own interests as workers and consumers, were mostly compatible. Thus, a GM executive could say "What's good for General Motors is good for America" without fear of contradiction. Subsequent events have shown that corporate interests do not fit so easily with the public's interest. This is especially acute with regard to environmental policy, where corporate profit goals may conflict with the public's desire for a clean, healthy environment.
Industry and its advocates try to use this notion to suggest that workers and their families have to choose between good jobs or excessive environmental regulation. Workers who are fearful of losing their livelihoods will thus side with industry against environmentalists. Environmentalists are portrayed as elitists who care more about insignificant animals, such as snail darters, than they do about human beings. Public support for strong environmental rules will diminish.
One response to this has been to assert that transforming the American economy in a green direction will create jobs. Retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, producing solar panels, manufacturing hybrid cars, and the like will create far more jobs than clinging to old, polluting technologies that, in the end, do as much harm as good.
Environmental issues, then, can be the catalyst for a wide-ranging debate over the future of the American economy and American society.
•Rise in crime after WWII ◦Public concern
•Reaction ◦1994 federal crime legislation
◦Parallel measures at state level
◦Stronger law enforcement
•Declining crime rates in 1990s and first decade of 2000s
•Explanations? ◦Law enforcement and tougher punishment
◦Weakened constitutional protections for the accused
◦Aging of baby boomers
For four decades after World War II, crime rates in the United States increased steadily. Between 1967 and 1978, the index of violent crime jumped 192 percent. The index of property crimes rose 168 percent. The public perceived that crime was out of control.
By the 1980s, crime was one of the public's top domestic policy concerns. Bill Clinton, while a presidential candidate, pledged to address the problem vigorously. In 1994, major crime legislation received bipartisan support, passing Congress and receiving President Clinton's signature. Like parallel measures taken at the state level, the new federal law imposed much tougher penalties and strengthened law enforcement.
Then, unexpectedly, the crime rate fell dramatically. The number of murders dropped from 24,540 in 1993 to 16,272 in 2008, despite significant population growth. From 1994 to 2003, property crimes fell 23 percent. Crime rates have contined to decline since then, although not as steeply as they did in the 1990s.
What accounts for this reversal? Perhaps it is the imposition of tough sentencing and more law enforcement effort. Perhaps it is laws that weaken constitutional protections for the accused. Or, as most observers believe, it may be that the maturation of the baby boomer generation has reduced the share of the population most likely to commit crimes — young me
Types of Crime
Crime = actions prohibited by bodies with the authority to make laws
•Violent crime: murder, robbery, aggravated assault, rape ◦In decline 2001-2008
•Property crime: burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft ◦In decline 2001-2008
•Victimless crime: drugs, sexual behavior ◦Most adults have committed at least one of these crimes
•White-collar crime ◦More prominent since 2008
◦Very high costs
•Political crime: corruption
•Different types call for different responses
Crime is not an undifferentiated category. While in general we can define crime as any action that a body with the authority to make laws has declared prohibited, it remains that prohibited acts come in many forms.
The greatest public concern centers on violent crimes — murder, robbery, aggravated assault, and rape. The overall violent crime rate declined between 2001 and 2008.
Property crime includes burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft. The rate for this category also fell between 2001 and 2008.
Victimless crimes, while perhaps misnamed, encompass all those in which a voluntary action has taken place, such as a drug dealer selling illegal drugs to a drug user. The category also includes laws governing sexual behavior. The number of such crimes is immense, as most adults have violated some law related to morals at some time.
White-collar crime has become especially prominent in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The crisis revealed that many figures in leading investment banks, mortgage companies, and other corporations were engaged in dubious practices, including violating securities fraud laws. The direct costs of white-collar crime far exceed those of street crime.
Political crime encompasses various forms of corruption, such as campaign finance violations, bribery, graft, and influence peddling. It has the effect of undermining confidence in the institutions of government.
One important reason identifying types of crime matters is that it helps to identify what will deter the criminal behavior. Deterring a burglar is very different from deterring a corporate executive from embezzling company funds.
Inequality and criminal justice
Law should apply equally to all, but...
African Americans are more likely:
•To be arrested
•And to be imprisoned
•And to be executed ◦1930-1997: 52% of executions
Ideally, the law should apply to everyone in the same way, regardless of race, creed, religion, or class. In practice, certain groups tend to be more harshly treated than others. African Americans express much less confidence in the criminal justice system than whites due to perceived unequal treatment at the hands of authorities.
African Americans are more likely than whites to be arrested. This may reflect a higher crime rate among African Americans, or it may be due to greater law enforcement efforts directed towards them.
African Americans are more likely than whites to face jail time. More so than the arrest rate, this fact probably reflects abiding discrimination in the application of the law.
The death penalty tends to be applied disproportionately to African Americans. From 1930 to 1997, African Americans accounted for 52 percent of executions while comprising only 12.5 percent of the population.
Like all public policies, criminal justice must be understood in its economic, social, historical, and cultural contexts. In the United States, that means recognizing that racial inequality affects all areas of American society.
•Constitutional protection ◦Power can be used to punish opponents
◦State more powerful than individual ◾Innocents can be punished
•Expansion of protections for the accused
•Controversies in constitutional law ◦Right to counsel
The American constitutional tradition includes protections against arbitrary arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment. The Founding Fathers recognized that such powerful tools could be put to political purposes, to silence and even kill political opponents. Indeed, this happens around the world today. Moreover, the individual must face the awesome power of the state when accused of a crime. Without adequate rights and protections, the chances of the innocent avoiding conviction would be minute.
In light of known abuses of law enforcement powers, the Supreme Court expanded protections for the accused, particularly during the tenure of Chief Justice Earl Warren. More-conservative courts have subsequently reined in these rights, and the War on Terrorism has also resulted in significant encroachments. Nonetheless, Americans continue to enjoy certain rights when accused of a crime.
The expansion of rights has been controversial because many Americans, including those in law enforcement, fear that the guilty will escape conviction on "technicalities." Controversy has been especially acute in three areas.
The right to legal representation has been expanded from simply allowing the accused to hire a lawyer to requiring that government provide counsel to those unable to afford it.
The constitutional right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure has resulted in rules restricting how the police may gather evidence. If they do not abide by the restrictions, the evidence can be excluded from consideration in court.
Capital punishment has not been declared cruel and unusual punishment, but its unequal application has led to the enactment of rules meant to ensure that it is not used as a tool of oppression. In addition, evidence shows that capital punishment is not the deterrent one might expect. Wrongful convictions resulting in the execution of innocent people have recently led to reconsideration of the fairness of the death penalty
Do the guilty go free
•Critics fear the guilty can escape justice on a technicality ◦Miranda rights
Critics of the Supreme Court's expansion of the rights of the accused claim that hindering police power will allow the guilty to escape indictment, trial, and conviction. They will "hide behind the Constitution" to evade punishment even when guilty of serious crimes. Are they correct?
Experience with reading Miranda rights to inform persons under arrest of their right to remain silent and to have a lawyer has not resulted in numerous thwarted investigations. Police rapidly adapted to the new rules and routinely provide the Miranda warnings.
Likewise, with regard to the rules for gathering evidence, police forces have learned and applied the constitutional requirements routinely.
Most importantly, the criminal justice system includes numerous "exit points" that mean cases are handled in ways that make constitutional restrictions largely irrelevant
What is to be done
•Combat violence against women
•Regulate ownership of firearms
•Strengthen the police
•Reform penal practices and law
•Adopt zero tolerance
•Limit alternatives to punishment
Crime rates are down, but the problem never goes away. What can be done to reduce the crime rate further?
One suggestion is simply to remove some behaviors from the prohibited list. This includes the largest category of victimless crime, the use of illicit drugs. Taking drug cases out of the criminal justice system would also eliminate much associated crime.
Another suggestion is to address violence against women. Feminists say that, in addition to being criminal behavior, violence against women perpetuates the oppression of women, making it a much larger political issue.
As a result of the December 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, the issue of gun control has risen to the national agenda. The power of the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, has so far prevented meaningful regulation of access to firearms. Yet, experience in other countries shows that gun control can reduce crime rates.
In general, it might be possible to make the criminal justice system tougher, able to deter crimes and keep the undeterred locked up for long sentences. More resources for policing, more effective incarceration, less tolerance of criminal behavior, and limits on judicial discretion to release those accused of or convicted of crimes might help lower the crime rate.
However, extensive research has shown that certainty of apprehension and swiftness of punishment are far more important to deterring crime than harsh penalties.
•Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, ACA (March 2010)
•Health care finances
◦From Fee for Service to Managed Care
•Major problems and disappointing outcomes
•Federal and state health care programs
•Health care at the crossroads
Health care in America recently underwent major reform. In March, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA. The law has survived court challenges and many efforts by Republicans in Congress to repeal it entirely. The ACA will expand coverage, reform health insurance, and encourage preventive care, among many other initiatives.
In this unit, you will learn essential information needed to analyze the health care issue.
The first topic we will address is health care finances. Even before the ACA, private insurance had undergone significant change.
We will also outline the major problems facing the system and describe the relative performance of American health care.
Federal and state health care programs expanded significantly in the 1960s. We will describe these programs, including purposes, costs, benefits, and issues.
A century of efforts to create a national health care plan had come to nothing, until the ACA passed. This legislation brings American health care to a historic moment of change.
We will detail the elements of the ACA and how the various parts are supposed to work together.
•Fee for service
◦Medicare and Medicaid
•Health care costs and the federal budget
For many years, people paid for medical care on a fee for service basis. This meant that a doctor, hospital, or clinic would deliver specific services to the patient and charge for each one. The total bill would simply be the cost of all services added up. When insurance companies started paying the bills, neither immediate party to the transaction - the provider or the patient - had any incentive to limit costs. Providers made more money for more services. Patients would accept as much medical care as providers offered, while insurance picked up the tab.
Two important changes took place to transform payment for medical care. First, government entered the market with two large public programs, Medicare and Medicaid. Government has used its bargaining power to limit cost increases.
Second, the private market shifted from fee for service to various forms of managed care. Under managed care, providers have incentives to hold costs down. They may be paid a flat rate for each patient in a large group, such as all the employees at a university. Providing less medical care, then, increases the amount left over for corporate revenue. Managed care has replaced fee for service for almost all private health insurance plans.
Still, problems do remain. For one, rising healthcare costs are the main reason that in the long-run the federal budget could have large deficits.
Problems and Results
◦Burden on individuals, employers, and government
◦Barriers to access
•Measures of health
The three most important problems with the US healthcare system are cost, access, and quality.
Cost refers to the burden individuals bear. Medical expenses are the top reason for personal bankruptcies, even for people with insurance. Rising costs also place an increasing load on businesses offering health benefits to their employees. Government pays about half of all medical expenses, and so rising costs impose greater burdens on federal and state budgets.
It is often said that the United States has the best medical care in the world, if you can get it. Access is limited for roughly 50 million uninsured Americans. In addition, under-served communities in rural areas and inner cities can also face barriers to access.
Lack of insurance and inadequate facilities can also affect quality of care. Research has shown that individuals without insurance do not receive the same quality of care as those who do. Moreover, lack of insurance can induce sick people to forego expensive medical care until a problem becomes acute. This means less effective medical treatment and higher costs.
Americans pay more for their health care system than anyone else in the world. Yet, Americans do not enjoy the best outcomes. On standard measures of health, such as life expectancy and infant mortality, the United States ranks low relative to other advanced industrial countries. It is alone in not having a universal health care system. Other countries offer several different models for how to structure a health care system, but they all ensure that every citizen has some kind of coverage for medical costs. Thus, at lower cost, they also show better results.
Federal Health Programs
◦Part of Social Security
◦Coverage of prescription drugs
◦Low-income families and individuals with disabilities
◦Joint state-federal program
◦Indian Health service
◦Medical research facilities
•2009: Medicare $500m; Medicaid $350m
In the 1960s, the political situation was favorable to the creation of new federal programs to provide health coverage for the elderly and the poor. Medicare is part of the Social Security system. It provides hospital coverage to Social Security recipients, supplemental insurance to cover doctor's visits and other non-hospital expenses, and subsidized access to insurance plans to pay for prescription drugs.
Medicaid provides complete coverage to eligible low-income families, and to individuals with disabilities. Recipients of Medicaid benefits pay no out of pocket expenses for covered services and pharmaceuticals. Medicaid is a joint state-federal program. The federal government covers from 50 to 80 percent of the costs, depending on the state's per capita income.
The federal government also maintains military hospitals, clinics and hospitals for veterans, the Indian Health Service, and extensive medical research capabilities.
Public funding covered 47 percent of a total $2.4 trillion health care bill in 2008. Medicare alone cost $500 billion in 2009. Medicaid cost over $350 billion that year as well.
Texas Health Programs
•State government involvement
◦Direct health services
◾1/4 of state budget; 60% from federal contributions
◦Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
◾1 in 6 children uninsured
•Uninsurance in Texas: highest in the nation
◦1 in 4 adults uninsured
◦Emergency room care
•Texas and the ACA
◦Medicaid and CHIP: 2.1m people
◦incentives to purchase private insurance: 4.3m people
◦Governor Perry opposed Medicaid expansion
Texas state government partners with the private sector and the federal government to provide health insurance and health services to millions of Texans. Texas government provides direct health services, including mental health and chemical dependency programs. However, incomplete coverage leads many to resort to the emergency room, which is required by law to accept patients regardless of their ability to pay.
Texas manages Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). One-fourth of the Texas state budget goes to Medicaid, but about 60 percent of the funds come from federal contributions. Despite enrolling over 3 million children in Medicaid or CHIP, one in six Texas kids remains uninsured.
Texas state government is a major employer, and it purchases private health insurance for its employees. This puts a major burden on the Texas budget, for health insurance premiums have doubled since 2001, reaching $14,000 per year for a family of four.
For a variety of reasons, Texas is the state with the largest share of uninsured persons in the nation. One in four non-elderly Texans has no health insurance coverage. Texas ranks low on employer-provided insurance, and public programs are far from universal. This leads to many Texans receiving uncompensated health care services from the ER and elsewhere, which in turn raises costs for paying customers.
Because of the high rate of uninsurance, Texas could be the state most affected by the ACA. Under federal rules, Medicaid and CHIP together would expand by 2.1 million people, and incentives to purchase private insurance should affect as many as 4.3 million more. Yet, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not be pressured into expanding Medicaid. Governor Rick Perry has refused to do so, leaving a major hole in the coverage the ACA would provide. It also means Texas foregoes over $100 billion in federal funds for which the state would have to expend about $10 billion. Although other elements of the ACA will expand coverage without state government participation, refusal to expand Medicaid will likely leave Texas with a high rate of uninsurance compared to other states.
At the Crossroads
•A century of reform and resistance
•Problem, policy and politics converge
•A range of options
◾Government pays bills
Rising costs, gaps in coverage, and consequent inequalities in the quality of care have heightened calls for reform, but efforts to implement some kind of universal health care plan in the United States date back a century. President Bill Clinton made health care a major part of his first term agenda, only to see his ideas shot down by a successful public relations campaign on behalf of the medical industry lobby.
With the election of Barack Obama, politics, policy, and problems converged to provide a brief window of opportunity for new policies. The Democrats, long associated with health care reform, controlled the White House and both the House and the Senate. President Obama's proposals were vague enough to allow negotiation and compromise, but clear enough to ensure that he would not face stiff opposition from industry or conservative Democrats. Years of rapidly escalating health costs, the sudden ballooning of the federal deficit due to the economic crisis, and growing hardships on the middle class pushed health to the top of the agenda. Although well away from what progressives in and out of Congress wanted, the ACA offered enough benefits that it won progressive votes without losing conservatives.
The ACA represented a market-oriented choice among a range of options that had been debated for years. The most sweeping change would have been single payer, modeled on the Canadian system. Under single payer, providers remain private (both for-profit and non-profit) but government would pay all the bills. There would be very little private health insurance, so taxes to pay for a single payer system would replace premiums formerly paid to insurance companies. Government could use its immense bargaining power to hold medical cost increases down.
On the other end of the spectrum is complete privatization, doing away with all government programs. Individuals would be expected to buy insurance or pay costs out of pocket. Some advocates of this option would provide government subsidies, such as tax credits, to help individuals purchase insurance policies.
The ACA falls between the ends of this spectrum.
•Expansion and reform of existing programs
◦Medicaid below 133% of poverty line
◾Focus on prevention
•New health insurance rules
◦No denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions
◦Children on parents' plan until 26
◦Health insurance exchanges
The Supreme Court approves
The ACA incorporates both private sector and public elements to expand coverage, contain costs, and improve quality.
Existing public programs would be enlarged. In particular, Medicaid would be made available to everyone below 133 percent of the poverty line, not only to children and disabled adults. In addition, more community health centers would be established, furthering the emphasis on prevention.
Health insurance companies would have to comply with new rules. Most importantly, they could not deny insurance to a person due to a pre-existing condition. This will prevent the 'cherry-picking' health insurance companies do, trying to insure only healthy people who won't need much spent on them. In addition, they would be required to allow parents to keep their children on their policies until age 26. They must also pay for preventive care in full.
Employers with over 50 employees will be required to provide health insurance to their workers. The policies must be comprehensive. Employers would receive tax breaks to help pay for the insurance.
Individuals not covered by a public program or by employer-provided insurance would have to purchase a health insurance policy. They will be able to do this through Health Insurance Exchanges established in each state. States can opt to set up the exchanges. If they do not, the federal government will do the job.
The federal government will subsidize individuals so they can afford health insurance through the HIE.
Federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the ACA were filed immediately. In the end, the Supreme Court ruled the essential elements of the legislation constitutional. It prevented the federal government from coercing the states into accepting the Medicaid expansion
Future of Healthcare`
◦No universal coverage
◦Expansion of Medicaid
◦Health Insurance Exchanges
◦Public option bargained away
•A first step toward single-payer?
•Health care: from commodity to right?
The ACA will provide health coverage to nearly 40 million Americans. This will leave tens of millions more residents uninsured, so the United States will not have achieved a universal system. Moreover, many states with Republican governors have rejected the Medicaid expansion part of the ACA, citing fears about future costs to state budgets. Governor Rick Perry of Texas is among them, turning down over $100 billion in federal funding. Texas is also the state with the highest rate of uninsurance in the country. Many states have also refused to set up Health Insurance Exchanges, so the federal government is doing it for them.
During the negotiations over the ACA, the most difficult element to maintain was cost containment measures. For instance, the "public option," which would have offered a government health insurance policy that would compete with the private insurance policies in the Health Insurance Exchanges was bargained away to retain a few key votes. Republicans in Congress have also attempted to eliminate measures in the bill that would reduce Medicare spending; the ACA's reforms are estimated to save 19 percent of projected spending by 2019, while also reducing premiums for beneficiaries purchasing Part B supplemental insurance. Meanwhile, preserving the taxes that were included to ensure the ACA did not add to the federal deficit may be difficult, as lobbyists and their friends in Congress seek to repeal those provisions of the legislation.
Yet, the ACA has survived court challenges and efforts in Congress to repeal it, and its reforms are becoming increasingly embedded in the health care system. One CEO of a major health insurance company declared that it spelled the end of private health insurance, that the ACA had put us on the path toward single payer.
The ACA does appear to introduce a new ethical principle into health care policy. Leading Democrats, including President Obama, declared that the ACA would embody access to medical care as a right for all Americans. This is a strong contrast to the notion that medical care is a commodity like any other, to which we have no more right than we do to a new car. International human rights rest on the promotion of human dignity. In the modern world, leading a life worthy of human dignity, say human rights advocates, includes having access to modern medicine. The ACA moves the country toward guaranteeing that right
Income Maintenance Programs
•Social Security: largest single item in federal budget
•Social insurance and social assistance
◦Meaning, extent, cost and effects on poverty
◦New Deal and the Great Society
largest single item in the federal budget is Social Security, which provides income support primarily to the elderly. As many as half of all American households are home to at least one individual who collects some kind of government benefit. Yet, American values tend to emphasize individual responsibility rather than reliance on government programs. Consequently, these large, expensive programs that benefit tens of millions of Americans remain highly controversial.
In this unit, you will learn about the two main categories of income maintenance programs: social insurance and social assistance.
To understand the significance of these programs better, we will survey the meaning, extent, cost, and effects of poverty and anti-poverty programs.
We will consider the historical development of income maintenance, with particular attention to the New Deal and the Great Society. We will compare different ideological orientations to the problem of poverty and policies to address it.
Lastly, we will consider whether income maintenance programs have succeeded, as well as current controversie
◾Official poverty line: in 2009, $22,050
◾Sets threshold at share
◾US: 18% of population below 50% of median income
•How many poor?
◦2011: 46.2m (15% of US population)
◦Up from 12.3% in 2006
•Who is poor?
◦South more than other regions
◦Higher incidence of poverty
◾African Americans and Hispanics
◾People with less education
◾Children in single-mother households
What is poverty? One definition is that the lack of some minimum amount of resources constitutes poverty. US policy adopts this view. The federal government determines how much income is needed to live at the official poverty line (the poverty threshold). The amount is adjusted for inflation, meaning that the amount of actual goods and services one can purchase remains roughly the same through time. In 2009, the official poverty line for a family of four was $22,050.
A relative definition of poverty sets the threshold at some share, typically one-half, of median household income in the country. Thus, as the country's general level of prosperity rises, so does the poverty threshold. In the United States, about 18 percent of the population falls below 50 percent of the median income, the highest in the industrialized world.
In 2011 46.2 million people, accounting for 15 percent of the US population, lived below the official poverty line. The increase from 12.3 percent in 2006 was in part attributable to the severe recession that began in 2007. The share of Americans living in poverty has remained fairly constant since the 1980s.
The "incidence" of poverty is about the rate of poverty in subgroups of the total population. For instance, the poverty rate is higher in the South than any other region of the country. The highest incidence of poverty by region, then, is found among residents of the South. In terms of overall numbers, the majority of those in poverty are white. Yet, African Americans and Hispanics have a higher incidence of poverty than whites. Women have a higher incidence than men. People with less education have a higher incidence than those with more education. Children in households headed by single women have the highest incidence of all
causes of poverty
•Conservative view: poor personal choices or character flaws
◦Lack of work effort
◦Capitalism: persistent unemployment and inequality
◾Moral duty to help those left behind
◦Barriers to equal opportunity
◦Income maintenance programs serve capitalism
◾Prevent social unrest
◾Scrutiny and monitoring
Controversy over the causes of poverty is as old as civilization. In the contemporary American debate, the issue tends to split along familiar liberal-conservative lines, although the radical critique of poverty policy has also contributed to the dialogue.
Conservatives tend to view poverty as the result of poor personal choices or character flaws. Failing to acquire sufficient education, lacking work ethic, and substance abuse relegate individuals to low-paying jobs and periods of unemployment. Lack of work effort is usually seen as the fundamental problem, so encouraging work is the cure.
Liberals emphasize two factors that limit the efficacy of individual initiative. First, capitalism, although productive and efficient, does create some unintended consequences, including persistent unemployment and inequality. If we choose to retain an economic system that has these outcomes, then we have a moral duty to help those left behind. Individual initiative cannot overcome the fact that someone is always left behind. Second, American society still displays a number of barriers to equal opportunity, including racism and sexism. Although considerable progress has occurred, discrimination has not disappeared. If there are barriers to opportunity, then it cannot be true that personal failings are the entire explanation for poverty. Again, society has a moral obligation to address this issue.
Radicals argue that income maintenance programs serve capitalism, in that they provide the means for regulating and placating the poor. Without these programs, social unrest might rise so high that the system would be disrupted. Accordingly, benefits are kept just high enough to maintain social order but not high enough to provide a dignified life. Moreover, to qualify for benefits requires subjecting one's life to official scrutiny and monitoring, and submitting to various penalties for violating the rules.
•Social assistance/public assistance/welfare
◦Low income or no assets
◦Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
◦Supplemental Security Income
◦Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
◾"Deserving poor": children, people with disabilities, elderly poor
•Issues in social insurance
◦Identifying eligible individuals
◦Effects on the family
◦Adequacy of benefits
◦Eligibility depends on contributions
◾Draw benefits in retirement regardless of assets
◾1930s New Deal
◾Medicare added in 1965
◾Retirees, people with disabilities, survivors of spouses
◾2009: 50m people, $680 billion
•Issues in social insurance
Social Security is one of the most popular programs in US history. Yet it is not without controversy. Critics of the current system assert that it is unsustainable over the long run. They point out that the Social Security Trust Fund, which now holds about $2.7 trillion, will begin drawing down its assets by the end of this decade and run out about mid-century. This is in part due to demographic change; the number of workers per retiree is expected to fall to 2-to-1, down from about 30-to-1 when the program was created. Americans live much longer now than they did in 1935, adding to the dependent population.
This has generated calls for reforms, ranging from complete privatization to fairly modest changes in funding and benefits. Because of the popularity of the program, which enjoys bipartisan support among the American people, efforts to make significant changes have proven non-viable politically.
◦Success at meeting goals
◦Compatibility with American values
◦Intended goals usually achieved
◦Earned Income Tax Credit
◦Absolute poverty alleviated
◦Fraud and abuse relatively low
How have income maintenance programs performed?
Social insurance programs have done very well at meeting their intended purposes. Social Security, in combination with other income sources, has helped pull most elderly Americans out of poverty. Of all age groups, the elderly have the lowest poverty rate. Moreover, because Americans view Social Security contributions as a kind of mandatory investment, it is not seen as a handout. Although social insurance consumes 70 percent of the spending on income maintenance, it enjoys broad popular support. Policy makers are averse to tampering with such a popular system.
Social assistance, contrary to popular impressions, generally meets the goals set for it as well. Most recipients of public assistance, often single women whose family circumstances have suddenly changed, receive benefits for a fairly short time before finding employment or remarrying. Moreover, the largest social assistance programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit and SNAP, benefit tens of millions of low-income Americans and are also quite popular. The EITC is seen as compatible with the work ethic, as it goes to low-income working families with children. Social assistance has also helped alleviate the plight of Americans in the deepest poverty. Without even the small payments from TANF and other programs, the poorest of the poor would have next to nothing. Lastly, fraud and abuse are no higher than in other federal programs, despite stories about "welfare queens" driving expensive cars while collecting multiple forms of assistance.
In comparison to other countries, the US income maintenance system is not very generous, and it is based on restrictive principles unknown elsewhere. Nonetheless, in general, the programs have worked as intended and reduced poverty significantly.
The 16th Amendment gave the federal government the ability ti tax the income of its citizens.
There's a saying that says only two things are certain: death and taxes. Perhaps one day, scientists will find a way to elude death, but taxes are definitely here for good! Taxes come in all forms. The United States initially relied mainly on tariffs to fund the government. A tariff is a tax on something that is imported into the country. But the 16th Amendment, which was ratified in 1913, gave the federal government the ability to tax the incomes of its citizens.
Our income taxes in the United States are designed to be progressive. A progressive tax is one in which those with higher incomes pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes. You learned about tax rates in the Unit 2 video Engager, and you saw that the tax rates on marginal income get higher as income goes up. The first $9,000 or so of income is only taxed at a rate of 10%, while the income earned over about $406,000 is taxed at almost 40%.
A sales tax is a regressive tax
On the other hand, some kinds of taxes are regressive. A regressive tax is one in which those with lower incomes pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes. A good example of a regressive tax is a sales tax. Even if the rate of a sales tax is 8% for everyone, people who earn less income tend to spend more of their income on goods and services.
Think about it: if you earn only $20,000 per year, you'll have to spend every penny on goods and services just to get by. Because you're spending 100% of your income on goods and services, you pay the 8% sales tax rate on 100% of your income. However, if you earn $800,000 per year, chances are you'll be investing, saving, and donating a portion of your income. Income that you invest, save, or donate is not subject to sales tax. You might only pay the 8% sales tax on half of your income, meaning that you pay a lower percentage of your income in sales tax than someone who earns less.
Most flat tax proposals suggest that anyone below a certain income threshold be exempt from taxation all together.
No tax system is perfect; each has its advantages and disadvantages. Regressive taxes place a high burden on those with low income, people who need every penny the most. Progressive taxes penalize the wealthy, leaving them with less money available to donate or invest. Flat taxes take away a valuable tool for incentivizing positive action. Everyone has a different opinion on which type of tax is best, and there is no one right answer. Because of the disagreement and debate over taxes, the study of tax policy is highly important in our society, and is certainly never going away
Many people advocate a flat tax as a way to eliminate all the complicated rules on taxes in the United States. A flat tax is one in which everyone pays the same percentage of their income, no matter how much or little is earned. Most flat tax proposals also suggest that anyone below a certain income threshold (say, $15,000 per year) is exempt from taxation all together.
Flat taxes certainly seem fair and simple, two characteristics that many people feel our current tax system lack. However, we often use tax policy to incentivize behavior. It's probably good for society to have people save for their retirement or donate to charity, so we use tax policy to incentivize those behaviors. With a flat tax system, we wouldn't be able to use those tools to encourage positive actions.
Feedback: False. Individuals with low income are NOT more likely to be able to take advantage of tax deductions on mortgage interest, retirement savings, and charitable donations.
There are steps taken to try and ensure that sales taxes aren't too regressive, and income taxes aren't too progressive. For example, many governments exempt some basic essentials from sales tax. In Texas, you do not pay sales tax on most food products. This is to help make the sales tax less regressive and ensure that those with low-income aren't bearing too much of a tax burden.
There are also many ways the federal government makes income taxes much less progressive than they seem. There are countless tax deductions and exemptions available for those who are able to use them. Mortgage interest, charitable donations, and retirement savings are all tax deductible. Because those who earn more have a lot more available to save or donate, they can take advantage of these deductions at a much higher rate than those with lower incomes. Income on investments, called "capital gains," is also taxed at a lower rate than other types of income, and wealthy individuals are much more likely to have this type of income than low-income citizens. These tax rules make the income tax system in the United States far less progressive than it appears.
Everyone has a different opinion on which type of tax is best.
No tax system is perfect; each has its advantages and disadvantages. Regressive taxes place a high burden on those with low income, people who need every penny the most. Progressive taxes penalize the wealthy, leaving them with less money available to donate or invest. Flat taxes take away a valuable tool for incentivizing positive action. Everyone has a different opinion on which type of tax is best, and there is no one right answer. Because of the disagreement and debate over taxes, the study of tax policy is highly important in our society, and is certainly never going away.
Income taxes are considered "progressive" because individuals who earn a higher income pay a higher percentage of that income in taxes.
Our income taxes in the United States are designed to be progressive. A progressive tax is one in which those with higher incomes pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes. You learned about tax rates in the Unit 2 video Engager, and you saw that the tax rates on marginal income get higher as income goes up. The first $9,000 or so of income is only taxed at a rate of 10%, while the income earned over about $406,000 is taxed at almost 40%.
Role of education
The policy debate
Liberals: mitigate historic social inequalities
Conservatives: encourage personal responsibility and foster moral values
Principles of American education
Free and universal
Education is one of the most important institutions in American life. Americans expect education to fulfill many roles, from providing basic education to training citizens in a democratic society.
The policy debate surrounding education pits liberals against conservatives on many issues. Liberals emphasize education's role in mitigating historic social inequalities based on race, ethnicity, and gender. Each student should have equal opportunity to succeed. The federal government is expected to take a leading role.
Conservatives believe education should encourage students to take personal responsibility and foster moral values compatible with an orderly society. It should emphasize the traditions that have shaped American society, including religious values. Local school boards should play a leading role, reflecting the values and beliefs of the community.
Education in early America
Jefferson: universal, free education
Unify the country and assimilate new immigrants
Expanding federal role
Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965)
Equal education for all
Increased state funding and policy authority
Education was a local responsibility in the nation's early years. Often, schools were connected to churches. Students did not spend their entire childhood and adolescence in school. A few years of formal education and learning at home were more usual. Nonetheless, education was considered essential to forming the new nation. Thomas Jefferson advocated universal, free education. He also advocated for colleges and universities so Americans would not have to study advanced subjects in Europe. The ultimate aim of education was to unify the country and assimilate new immigrants into the American way of life.
The federal and state roles in education have grown steadily. The federal government has long supported higher education, including such significant measures as the G.I. Bill, which provided funding for veterans to attend college. The most important expansion of federal involvement in elementary and secondary education was the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The ESEA made federal funds available to school districts for a variety of purposes. One of the aims of federal policy has been to further equal education for all, a policy that conflicted with legal segregation in many states and school districts.
Over the last several decades, state governments have also contributed an increasing share to education funding, which also increased state policy authority.
Equality and Education
Education and social inequality
Lower incomes, less education, and less wealth for minorities
Differences between school districts
Courts and inequality
Constitution does not require equal education funding
The United States displays many kinds of inequality, such as wide disparities in wealth as well as lower incomes, less education, and less wealth for minorities. Yet, it is also a land that claims everyone has a chance to get ahead. Inequalities are justified because there are no barriers to individual success. To ensure that this promise is fulfilled, every young person must be provided the tools for success from a good education. Otherwise, the inequalities are not justified and are instead the result of unfair advantages for some, regardless of merit.
The debate over whether American students receive equal educations begins with the issue of funding. Significant differences exist between well-funded and poorly funded school districts, even in the same state. For the most part, these differences are due to the local share of funding, which derives primarily from property taxes. Districts with plentiful high-value property can fund schools generously, while those without valuable property cannot.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution does not require equal education funding. Many state courts, however, have found that state constitutions do have such requirements. Consequently, states such as Texas are under a mandate to equalize funding across districts, a very controversial topic
two main principles of american education policy are free universal education and
Although the federal government has taken on a greater role in elementary and secondary education since 1965, and state governments now provide the largest share of education funding, the principle that local communities should have control over education in their schools still has force.
Quality of Education
Signs of failure
Decreased US competitiveness
Calls for reform
Bilingual education (vs. English-only)
Controversies over educational inequality relate to the quality of education. Numerous studies say that our kids are falling behind children in other countries, and this will cause the country to fall behind in international competitiveness. Many reforms have been proposed and implemented to address the problem.
One of the most hotly debated issues is the use of standardized "high-stakes" tests to assess whether students are acquiring the skills they need. In addition, various ways of assessing teacher competency have been applied.
To ensure all students can learn, bilingual education was introduced. This can mean holding classes in both English and the students' native language. Advocates of rapid assimilation have opposed this and prefer that students be immersed in English-only classrooms.
In addition, to ensure that the historical and cultural experiences of the many groups that make up America are represented, multicultural education has been implemented. Its goals include lifting the self-esteem of minority students and ensuring that American history and society are accurately presented.
Federal involvement=professional judgment
Alternatives to public schools
No Child Left Behind
In addition to controversies over what level of government should make education policy, advocates debate whether education professionals or parents should have the most say. Federal involvement generally means emphasis on professional judgment.
Parents dissatisfied with public schools may turn to alternatives. They include private schools, charter schools, parochial schools, and homeschooling. Many parents seek out alternatives because they want their children to receive education compatible with their religious beliefs. This raises contentious issues regarding separation of church and state, especially when policy makers seek to provide public funding to religious-oriented schools.
The most important recent federal initiative is the No Child Left Behind Act. It emphasizes accountability, achieved primarily through high-stakes testing. Failure to meet expectations can result in a variety of penalties, including closure of an under performing school.
Greater federal involvement in elementary and secondary education means:
More reliance on professional in designing curriculum
The federal Department of Education undertakes extensive research on how best to deliver education at all levels. It provides the results of such research, and the advice of education professionals, to states and school districts.
Issues in Higher Education
Equality of opportunity
Access to higher education
Decrease in state support
Rising tuition and fees
Equality of opportunity in the United States depends to a great degree on access to higher education. On average, college graduates earn significantly more than those with a high school education or less. Ensuring that people from all groups in society have access to a college education has required making efforts beyond eliminating legal barriers. Affirmative action has been a controversial way to bring about more equal representation of all groups in higher education.
Another concern has been the rising cost of a college education. State governments have reduced their support for colleges and universities. This has meant that institutions must find revenue elsewhere, most often by raising tuition and fees. Students find themselves taking on large debts to pay for higher education. This makes it harder for people from lower-income backgrounds to gain the benefits of higher education. Consequently, higher education cannot help to reduce rising inequalities in American society.
The Struggle Against Oppression and Bigotry
Civil Rights Act of 1964
This unit addresses the problem of inequality in America. We have mentioned that wealth, income, educational opportunity, and health care are unequally distributed across groups.
The first step in coping with inequality was to ensure that all Americans enjoyed legal equality. From the nation's founding, legal discrimination has been a reality, embodied in such practices as slavery and denying women equal rights. Removing legal inequality was necessary to deal with unequal opportunity caused by segregation and discrimination. In the end, a colorblind and gender-blind society ought to display rough proportionality between the share of each group in society and the distribution of rewards. Efforts to bring about equality of outcome have proven the most controversial of the three types of inequality.
Policies to mitigate inequality are manifest in the Constitution's 14th amendment, legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and programs such as affirmative action.
In American policy, much of the focus on inequality has been on the situation of African Americans. Yet, other groups have also sought equal rights, including women; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals; and the disabled.
"All men are created equal"
Many Founding Fathers were slaveholders
Removing legal discrimination
Treat people as equals under law: minimum definition of equality
Social inequality can continue
Laws about groups require strong justification
Behavior, not intrinsic characteristics of individuals
The Declaration of Independence asserts that "all men are created equal" is a self-evident truth. Yet, many of the Founding Fathers who signed that declaration were themselves slaveholders. Even after the end of slavery and the enactment of the 14th Amendment, many legal limits on subordinate groups existed. Removing these legal forms of discrimination was a first, important step in the country's effort to make the Declaration's words reality.
Legal equality sets the minimum standard for equality. It need not imply that social practices embody equal treatment. Still less does it mandate equal status in life, especially not with regard to material wealth. But if a person cannot be accorded equal treatment in a court of law, or is legally prohibited from enjoying privileges others access, then the society in no sense embodies the ideal of equality.
As legal equality has become more deeply embedded in American life, the standard for treating groups differently has become more restrictive. To apply different standards to different groups of people requires a "compelling reason." In general, a compelling reason must relate to a behavior, not to an intrinsic characteristic of individuals. The law allows special treatment of the mentally ill, for instance. It does not allow discriminatory treatment of African Americans.
The 14th Amendment
The Supreme Court
Civil Rights Cases (1883)
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
Overturned Plessy v. Ferguson
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The 14th Amendment was enacted to eliminate legal inequality for African Americans, including freed slaves. Southern states had implemented laws that intended to force freed slaves back into dependence on former slaveholders. The Supreme Court undermined the 14th Amendment in two decisions. The Civil Rights Cases (1883) determined that discrimination by private individuals and businesses was not subject to federal prohibition. Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) declared that "separate but equal" facilities, including schools, did not violate the 14th Amendment. Thus, the Supreme Court decided that discrimination and unequal treatment could continue.
An important sign of major change was the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal facilities were inherently discriminatory. This overturned Plessy v. Ferguson. Still, progress in desegregating schools and public places was slow.
The civil rights movement mounted pressure for change. The result was landmark legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It aimed to end discrimination on the job, and it mandated that federal agencies strive to end discrimination in any program or institution receiving federal funds.
The federal government offers job training assistance to low-income individuals in a minority community. This would be an example of an effort to achieve what?
Equal of opportunity
The federal government offers job training to low-income individuals of minority communities in order to achieve equality of opportunity
Equality of Opportunity
Historical discrimination and persistent inequality
Income, wealth, educational attainment, health, etc.
Equal access to opportunity and success
Example: advertising a job in a newspaper serving a minority community
Over several decades, most forms of legal discrimination were removed. In theory, if not always in practice, Americans enjoy legal equality. Yet, inequalities in all areas of life persist. Income, wealth, educational attainment, health and more show that inequality is still a fact of American life. Many Americans and policy makers inferred that social and cultural habits of discrimination meant de facto discrimination denied equal opportunity to disadvantaged groups. Accordingly, they decided it was necessary to take action to overcome these barriers.
Affirmative action is mostly about ensuring that all people have equal access to opportunity and success. It involves reaching out to minority communities so individuals in those communities will take advantage of employment and educational opportunities. Advertising a job in a newspaper that serves a minority community is an example of affirmative action. Broadening the definition of qualifications to be more inclusive is another.
Equality of Result
Civil Rights Act
Evidence of discrimination
Allocating admissions by share of population
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 forced employers to show that statistical disparities in the representation of different groups in society among employees were not the result of discrimination. If a community was, say, 10 percent African American, and the workplace was only 3 percent African American, employers could be sued for discrimination unless they could show that the disparities were justified.
The doctrine of "business necessity" required that businesses show why the requirements for a job were relevant to performance of the job. If the impact of a requirement is only to exclude minorities, rather than ensure job performance, then it would not be allowed.
The aim of achieving proportional equality has proven very controversial. Presumably, in a completely colorblind society in which no discrimination thwarts individual merit, valued positions would be filled proportional to representation in society. Thus, 12 percent of the lawyers, CEOs, and members of Congress would be African American. Half would be women. Clearly, this is not the case. Society could move in that direction by allocating admissions at prestigious universities according to share of population. But policy of this kind outrages qualified people who do not enjoy such protections. White male students with high GPAs and SAT scores resent seeing seats in top universities going to minorities with lower scores.
Which of the following is an example of affirmative action?
When a university stops relying solely on SAT scores for admissions when they appear to exclude minority youth, this is an example of affirmative action.
The Changing Understanding of Equality
Historical and cultural discrimination continue
Observed outcome disparities
Barriers to advancement
Discrimination not over yet
Is discrimination the reason?
Earliest days: expansion
Acquisition of Louisiana Territory
Expansion of influence
Agriculture and mining
New markets for American goods and investments Natural resources
Cuba, Philippines, etc
.Globalism Cold War
American foreign policy has displayed distinct patterns since the nation's founding. The manner in which the United States has conducted its foreign policy has varied according to circumstances.
The United States has been expansionist since its earliest days. Although professing to prefer a restrained approach to foreign affairs, President Thomas Jefferson acquired the Louisiana Territory from France, nearly doubling the nation's territorial extent. Within the century, the United States would span the continent and reach beyond to territories on the far side of the Pacific and southward into Latin America. Today, territorial expansion is not an important goal, but the expansion of American influence remains a top priority.
Commercial ambitions explain much of American expansion. Acquiring territory for agriculture and mining, opening up new markets for American goods and investments, and securing important natural resources lie behind the political and military assertiveness of the country.
By the end of the 19th century, the United States had joined the Europeans' quest for colonies, acquiring Cuba, the Philippines, and other territories by war. It expanded its commercial interests and backed up those interests with military might. The coupling of commercial power with military power is called imperialism.
After World War II, the United States became the preeminent global power. During the Cold War, the United States was able to exercise hegemony in the so-called "free world," the areas not under communist governments. After the Cold War, the United States stands as the sole remaining superpower. As such, it has global influence and global interests. American leaders regularly assert that world order depends on US leadership and power.
The Foreign Policy of a New Nation
Material advantages and utopian hopes
Opportunities, High wages, Freedom
Continentalism and manifest destiny
The Monroe Doctrine
The people who came to the North American continent had two major motivations. For one, they sought prosperity. The new land afforded endless opportunities for investment, entrepreneurship, and wealth. It also paid top wages to working people, due to chronic labor shortages.
In addition, new settlers wanted freedom from the oppressive structures of European life. They wanted to practice their own religions unhindered, to escape the hierarchies of feudal dynasties, and to create society anew on principles of equality and liberty.
When the American Revolutionary War ended and the new nation was born, foreign affairs immediately pressed on the country. After all, European powers still possessed much of the North American continent. Great Britain remained the world's greatest power. The United States had to decide at once how to cope with the outside world. American leaders, including George Washington, counseled the country to avoid entangling alliances, to stay out of European intrigue, and to chart an independent course. Maintaining trade relations with friendly nations was as much foreign entanglement as they would allow.
Yet Americans were also ambitious. They wanted to expand the country across the continent, which meant confronting the French, British, Spaniards, Russians, and other Europeans. Expansion led to wars and threats of wars. War with Spain and Mexico yielded new lands, while the British, French, and Russians were content to sell their territories rather than wage war to keep them. Thus, the United States fulfilled its "manifest destiny" to become a continental power.
Even before it had seized a continent, the United States asserted its influence in the Western Hemisphere. The Monroe Doctrine declared that Europeans would no longer be allowed to establish colonies in the Western Hemisphere. Although the country then lacked the military might to back this assertion, it has shaped the country's foreign policy to this day.
American expansion was driven primarily by:
Although expansion resulted from many political and moral motives as well, the main driver of American expansion has been commercial interests.
Control over Cuba Puerto Rico and Guam Philippines
Theodore Roosevelt: "corollary" to Monroe Doctrine
World War I
Make the world safe for democracy
The Great Depression: isolationism
After consolidating its position in North America and asserting its influence in the Western Hemisphere, the United States began to look further afield.
The Spanish-American War of 1898 marks a turning point in American foreign policy. Winning the "splendid little war" against Spain brought the United States control over Cuba, possession of Puerto Rico and Guam, and a bloody war to assert control over the Philippines. This suddenly transformed the United States into an imperial power rivaling the great powers of Europe. The United States was now involved in the Pacific, with particular attention to China.
Meanwhile, President Theodore Roosevelt declared a "corollary" to the Monroe Doctrine: The United States would "police" its part of the world, preventing the rise of governments not compatible with American interests.
The new global role for the United States eventually resulted in involvement in European conflicts. After initially refusing to join the struggle, the United States entered World War I on the British side, leading to the defeat of Germany. President Woodrow Wilson's "idealism" guided American policy. Wilson wanted to "make the world safe for democracy." He sought to replace balance-of-power politics with collective security, a system intended to stop aggression. He proposed the creation of the League of Nations to provide countries with a means for settling their disputes short of war.
But Wilson's vision did not prevail. Americans turned isolationist, and the United States withdrew from the world scene. The Great Depression caused many countries to become insular, as they tried to save their own economies and governments by cutting off ties with others. The collapse of world trade only worsened the depression
WWII and the Rise of Globalism
The Gathering storm
Germany: Hitler Japan: East Asia Italy: Africa
World War II
The economic crisis of the 1930s generated extremist movements in several important countries, especially Germany. Adolph Hitler promised to restore German power and prosperity. His ambitions included domination of the European continent, which would require war with the other great powers. Japan also embarked on a policy of conquest, seeking to create a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere," requiring vast territorial conquests. Italy's leader, Benito Mussolini, also had imperial designs, leading to Italy's invasion of Libya and Ethiopia. As the demands of these regimes mounted, other powers prepared for war. Yet the United States maintained its isolationist stance.
When the Japanese attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941, American isolation ended abruptly. President Franklin Roosevelt sought and obtained a congressional declaration of war on Japan. Germany declared war on the United States. Thus, the country was engaged in a global conflict, the greatest in world history.
World War II consumed more human lives by far than any other war ever fought. It left much of the world in ruins, including two Japanese cities demolished by American atomic bombs. The bloody struggle ended with the victory of the Allied powers—the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, France, and many others.
US: half of world's industrial capacity
World's largest navy and air force
Restoring the world economy
Strengthening international institutions
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (aka World Trade Organization)
Bretton Woods: rules for the international monetary system
Consolidating global security
Major tasks remained: rebuilding shattered societies, restoring order, putting people back to work, and designing a new world order. The United States was largely unscathed. The war effort had built the country's industrial capacity; in 1945, the United States alone accounted for half of world output. The United States had sole possession of the atomic bomb, as well as the world's largest navy and air force. Great Britain and France were reduced to second-rate powers. Germany, Japan, and Italy were subdued and occupied. Only the Soviet Union posed a challenge, and it had borne the heaviest costs of the war. The United States had the chance to assert global influence, and it did not squander the opportunity.
The United States led the way in creating a new international order, intended to prevent the recurrence of the disastrous experience the world had been through over the preceding three decades. One of the first priorities was to restore the world economy, which had collapsed into the Great Depression in the 1930s. Economic failure was believed to be a major reason World War II had happened.
Though the League of Nations and other attempts to integrate the international community failed after World War I, in the years following World War II, there was renewed effort to create international organizations. This led to the formation of the United Nations, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (which later became the World Trade Organization), and the Bretton Woods Agreement (which established rules for the international monetary system). The United States was an active participant and leading member in the creation and perpetuation of these organizations.
The United States led the creation of a global set of alliances to deter war. The centerpiece, which still exists today, was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, joining the United States to Europe and Canada in a powerful western alliance. Bilateral treaties with Japan and other countries, along with other alliances, augmented US security arrangements. American policy makers hoped that a strong military joined to a prosperous world economy and effective international institutions would secure the peace, defend American interests, and foster progressive change in world affairs
The Cold War
Containment of Soviet influence
Expansion of interests
Soviet Union: Eastern Europe
United States: Western Europe and eastern Pacific Cuban missile crisis
Withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe Internal reforms
Why did the Cold War end?
The United States and the Soviet Union were allies during World War II. Germany had attacked the Soviet Union, inflicting immense damage. The Red Army ultimately prevailed. Germany retreated from Russian soil as the United States and Great Britain opened up the western front with an invasion of German-held France.
Within a few years after the end of the war, the United States and Soviet Union had become enemies. The Soviets feared "capitalist encirclement," while the United States and its Western allies feared the expansion of communism. Drawing on the experience of World War II and the rise of Soviet power, the United States embraced three principles for its foreign policy: activism, anti-communism, and containment of Soviet influence.
Explanations for the demise of US-Soviet cooperation and the rise of enmity between the two superpowers focus on a conflict of interest, ideological incompatibilities, and misperception.
Considerable maneuvering took place after World War II as each superpower sought to cement its influence over key areas of the world. The Soviets were particularly concerned to control the paths to invasion in Eastern Europe. The United States wanted Western Europe and the eastern Pacific to be under its influence. Subsequently, relations cooled and thawed as events dictated. The Cuban missile crisis nearly resulted in nuclear war, while the policy of detente led to important nuclear arms control treaties. President Ronald Reagan's return to belligerence gave way to cooperation when Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union.
Gorbachev abandoned much of Soviet Cold War policy. He withdrew Soviet troops from Eastern Europe and embarked on major internal reforms. Ultimately, the Soviet Union dissolved, abandoning its communist ideology and breaking up into its constituent republics.
Explanations for the end of 40 years of military, ideological, and political conflict vary widely. For some observers, the Cold War ended almost entirely because the Soviet Union adopted a different course. For others, the reason the Soviets changed was the pressure put on their system by Ronald Reagan's defense buildup.
New world order
United Nations intervenes to prevent aggression Globalization and the new agenda
Trade ties with China
Financial sector deregulation
The Bush Doctrine
Democratic transformation of Middle East
Preventive war against terrorists
WMD, democracy, human rights
President George Herbert Walker Bush succeeded President Reagan just as the Soviet Union was in its last days. President Bush maintained a cautious approach, neither trusting too much that the Soviets were undergoing a genuine transition nor impeding it in any way. President Bush did see a great opportunity in the demise of Soviet-led communism, and he suggested that a "new world order" was being born. Part of that was that the United Nations might be able to play the role intended for it in preventing aggression. President Bush put this to the test when Iraq invaded Kuwait with the intention of absorbing Kuwait as its "19th province." The United States mounted a multinational force to reverse Iraq's invasion, with no opposition from Iraq's former ally, the Soviet Union.
By the time Bill Clinton entered the White House, issues of globalization had come to the fore. President Clinton pushed the North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress, expanded trade ties with China, and signed legislation deregulating the financial sector. President Clinton also began to confront the problem of terrorism. His foreign policy focused on enlarging the domain of democratic nations, strengthening international organizations, and engaging in humanitarian missions.
President George W. Bush faced the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks only nine months into his first term. This set his foreign policy agenda. He declared that anyone not with the United States in the fight against terrorism would be treated as an enemy. He invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. President Bush articulated the Bush Doctrine, which emphasized American leadership, democratic transformation of the greater Middle East, and preventive war to take out terrorists before they could attack the United States.
Abiding post-Cold War issues addressed during both the Clinton and Bush administrations included preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, fostering democratic transitions, and emphasizing human rights. In addition, both presidents continued American support for globalization of the world economy. However, both also noted that globalization creates many new foreign policy challenges and security threats.
Which of the following statements is not true?
The United States emerged from World War II as a leading global power. The United States eagerly entered World War I, wanting to dominate the European continent. The Soviet Union was an ally of the United States during World War II. The Cold War ended when the Soviet Union adopted internal reforms and withdrew from Eastern Europe. Submit
The United States eagerly entered World War I, wanting to dominate the European continent.
The United States had to abandon its historic refusal to become involved in European conflicts, which it did not do easily. President Wilson had to proclaim a higher moral purpose to persuade Americans that involvement in World War I was wise
President Obama's Foreign Policy
Restoring American leadership
Winding up the wars
Coping with global economic crisis
Support for the Arab Spring
President Obama came to office with two major wars underway, many other military operations, and the global economy in free-fall. Moreover, President Bush's assertiveness, coupled with accusations that the United States was using torture on terrorism suspects, had severely damaged the American reputation in the world.
President Obama pledged to restore America's image and its leadership role. He reached out to the Muslim world in a famous speech given in Cairo, Egypt. He smoothed over troubled relations with old allies in Europe.
Candidate Obama had pledged to bring the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to an end. All American combat troops have been withdrawn from Iraq. After authorizing a surge in Afghanistan, President Obama began to draw troop levels down, and the US presence is significantly reduced. In a speech delivered in May 2013, President Obama suggested that the war on terrorism is over as well.
The most pressing agenda item for the new president in January 2009 was to halt the economic collapse that had begun in the waning days of the Bush administration. President Obama worked with other world leaders to stabilize the world financial system. This effort largely succeeded, despite lingering problems.
President Obama supported the Arab Spring, which brought down dictators across the Middle East. The most overt US involvement occurred in Libya, where a US-led military effort toppled Muammar Khadafi, long-time dictator in that country.
President Obama has continued President Bush's policy of confronting Iran over its nuclear weapons program. Economic sanctions against Iran have been tightened. Iran claims it has no intention of building a nuclear weapon, but American policy makers are skeptical, and the Obama administration insists Iran must open all facilities to UN inspectors.
United States: moral values at the heart of foreign policy
Genetically modified organisms
International relations is often said to be an amoral realm in which the struggle for power is all. Yet, the United States has claimed to stand for something more, to be exceptional in the history of great powers in that it places moral values at the heart of its foreign policy. Wilsonian idealism implies support for democracy, respect for human rights, and a commitment to peaceful settlement of disputes. This moral element extends into many areas. Consider the following ethical challenges facing the current administration.
President Obama made extensive use of remotely controlled drones to attack suspected terrorists around the world, even killing American citizens. This raised important constitutional questions, in that the president is claiming the authority to find guilt and execute a death sentence without providing due process.
The European Union banned the importation of genetically modified organisms (GMO). In response, the United States sued in the World Trade Organization, saying the EU ban unfairly restricted imports of US agricultural products. Do you agree with the US position? Would you want the WTO telling the United States which foods it must import?
In early 2013, a textile factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing more than 1,000 workers. Walmart and many other American corporations import products made in Bangladesh and elsewhere under unsafe conditions, using poorly paid labor. Multinational corporations claim to rely on offshore suppliers that meet labor standards, but the factory collapse suggests otherwise. Should the US government actively ensure that goods made overseas are produced under ethically acceptable conditions? How can US corporations be held to account for the practices of their suppliers?
The American Immigration Myth
Nation of immigrants: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free..."
Early history: few restrictions, little resistance
Rising anti-immigrant sentiment
Japanese and Chinese immigration
Quotas: number of people allowed in from particular countries
Preferences: immigrants allowed based on personal criteria (e.g. valued skills)
It is often said that America is a nation of immigrants. The Statue of Liberty in New York harbor declares that the country opens its arms to "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free..." America is a land of opportunity, beckoning to anyone with initiative and the willingness to work hard.
In fact, the door is more open at some times than others. Early in the country's history, few restrictions were placed on immigration. The main concern was with the moral character of persons coming to America. Citizenship could be obtained in state courts in as little as five years. Yet even then, fears about immigrants were expressed, and resistance to immigration from some parts of the world mounted.
As long as most immigrants came from northern Europe, they were tolerated, if not welcomed. When their origins shifted first to southern and eastern Europe, then to Asia, and later to Latin America, opposition rose. By the 1850s, an anti-immigration party called the Know Nothings was enjoying some electoral success. In California, resentment against Japanese and Chinese immigration led to legal efforts to exclude people from those countries, or to deny them the privileges of citizenship.
At various times, the government has imposed quotas, limiting the number of people allowed in from particular countries. For example, the 1921 Quota Act attempted to match new immigration to the population of the United States in 1890. This favored northern Europeans and disfavored people from other parts of the world.
Later, the country adopted a preferences system. This meant that immigrants were allowed into the country based on certain personal criteria, such as having valued skills.
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965
n 1965, various quota schemes were abandoned, and a preference system was put in their place. Two major criteria were employed: family reunification and possession of certain skills.
First on the preference list were the unmarried children of US citizens. (Spouses of US citizens were allowed in without limit.) Also on the list were spouses and children of permanent resident aliens, followed by married children of US citizens and siblings of US citizens.
Exceptional scientists and artists were given preference, along with workers with skills needed in the US.
In addition, numerical limits were imposed on people originating in the eastern hemisphere and in the western hemisphere. This replaced limits on specific countries.
What is the american myth
Like all myths, the American immigration myth contains some truth. At times, the country has held the door open. But at others, immigrants have been unwelcome. This depends on such factors as economic conditions, political trends, social change, and the nation's attitudes toward the world outside American borders.
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, 1996
Instead of general framework Focus on border states Tougher penalties and enforcement Employer penalties Changes to eligibility for public programs
An unintended consequence of the Immigration and Nationality Act was a rise in illegal immigration. In response, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act in 1996. The legislation was particularly concerned with the flow of illegal immigration along the Mexican border, affecting Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California the most.
The act provided much greater resources for policing the US-Mexico border. It added Border Patrol agents and improved the technology for monitoring border traffic. The act also increased the penalties for smuggling people across the border, and it added new penalties for illegal immigrants themselves.
It took steps toward sanctioning employers for hiring illegals, including providing assistance in ensuring that individuals were legally allowed to work in the United States. Lastly, the act withdrew or reduced access to public programs, such as Medicaid and student loans.
Within a few years, Congress softened some of the act's measures. For instance, Supplemental Security Income benefits were restored to legal immigrants who were in the country before the law's enactment. Efforts to enforce hiring rules were largely abandoned.
Immigration Policy Debate
Internal and external concerns
economic needs Adds revenue for public budgets Diversifies and enriches society
Undermines American workers Increases burden on public programs Threatens American culture and values
Immigration Policy Debate
At a broad level, Americans express concerns about the internal effects of high immigration, and the exposure it creates to external threats. For instance, opponents of the open door claim that immigrant communities can foster crime. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States suggest that loose immigration policy can allow enemies of the country in too easily.
Those who favor an open door policy note that immigrant workers can fill a wide variety of economic needs. Many offer highly valued skills, such as engineering and computer programming. Others provide the farm labor needed to bring in American crops every year. Advocates note that immigrants are more likely than native-born Americans to start new businesses and hire people to work at them. Immigrants thus earn taxable income that helps pay for valued social programs, such as Social Security. Moreover, the United States has long benefited from the infusion of new cultural resources. Immigrants both assimilate, becoming good Americans, and add to the richness of American culture.
Opponents assert that, rather than providing economic benefit, immigrants harm American workers. They take jobs Americans could fill, and they work for lower wages, tolerating worse working conditions. This undermines the gains Americans have made in improving the lot of native-born workers. Moreover, immigrants generally lack employment benefits, so they turn to the ER for health care. They send their children to taxpayer-funded schools, adding to overcrowded classrooms. And they rely on public assistance to get by. Finally, the cultural heritage of recent immigrants, unlike those from northern Europe in the country's early days, is at odds with traditional American values. High immigration will mean that the country will become unrecognizable and distant from the political and religious traditions that have made America free.
"Research shows that immigrants contribute more to public programs, such as Social Security and Medicaid, than they receive in benefits." This statement provides support for:
The open-door approach to immigration
"Research shows that immigrants contribute more to public programs, such as Social Security and Medicaid, than they receive in benefits." This statement provides support for: The open-door approach to immigration Restrictions on immigration Neither the open door nor restriction Submit Critics often cite the burden on public budgets resulting from high levels of legal and illegal immigration. Because immigrants tend to be working age, and averse to drawing official attention to themselves, they contribute significantly more in taxes to federal, state, and local governments than they take back in benefits. For some communities heavily affected by immigration, this may not be true, but in general it is. This refutes an argument in favor of restriction.
Immigration an important issue in 2012 presidential election
Immigration reform rises on the agenda
Reform proposals More enforcement Moratorium Job skills preference First come, first served States take action Enforcement Denial of benefits
The 2012 presidential campaign may have hinged on the issue of immigration. The Republican Party, influenced by Tea Party activists, took a strong anti-immigrant stance that may have alienated the critical Latino vote, swinging important states to the Democrats. Since then, Republicans have sought ways to mend the fences with this growing segment of the electorate, but with little success so far. President Obama made immigration reform a top priority.
People on all sides of the debate offer ideas for dealing with the immigration issue. Some want even more enforcement: a more secure border, tougher penalties for illegal immigration, and greater restrictions on legal immigration. Others call for a moratorium, a pause in immigration, to allow the country to absorb and adapt to the current immigrant population. Still others want family reunification preferences dropped in favor of preferences for individuals with needed skills for the job market. Lastly, there are proposals to take people largely in the order they apply.
In the absence of federal action, states have adopted remedies to their perceived problems with immigration. For instance, Arizona passed a law allowing local police to check on a person's immigration status and to turn over illegals to federal authorities. In addition, states have attempted to deny illegal immigrants access to health care, education, and public assistance. However, courts have ruled that immigration policy is a federal concern, and that denying children an education or sick and injured people emergency medical care goes too far.
President Obama's Immigration Policy
Strengthen border security
Streamline legal immigration
Stop hiring undocumented workers
President Obama's proposal for immigration reform includes four major elements. The first is widely accepted: stronger border security. In addition, he calls for a "simple and efficient" process for legal immigrants to gain visas. He wants to encourage entrepreneurs to come to the United States, retain top foreign graduate students in science and math, and enhance family reunification. President Obama also wants to hold companies accountable for hiring only workers eligible to work in this country.
The most controversial part of President Obama's policy is providing a path to citizenship for people now in the country illegally. With 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, he says that immigration reform must include a rigorous but fair way for the undocumented to earn citizenship. They will have to undergo extensive background checks, pay penalties, learn English, and take their place at the back of the line. While going through the process, undocumented individuals would be eligible for "provisional legal status." This would allow them to stay but not participate in welfare or other federal benefits.
Critics say this is an amnesty program, rewarding lawbreakers simply because they are numerous. They worry that the enforcement part of the proposal will never be fully implemented, as shown by past efforts to link legal citizenship with stronger enforcement. They want the enforcement put in place first before they will accept a path to citizenship.
The immigration issue touches on deep questions of politics, morality, and identity. It is sure to remain one of the most controversial issues in American public policy for many years to come.
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