Domestic Determinants Of U.S. Foreign Policy

The notion of military primacy is the view that the U.S. has a military that is unmatched in the world. In recent times, the rhetoric between Iran and the U.S. has been invidious. There are concerns that the Iranian further advancement of Uranium is perilous. Notwithstanding the fragile nature of the situation in the Middle East, the recent killing of the Iran General, Qasem Soleimani by President Donald Trump has heightened the risk for conflict.
On August 6th, 2020, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo shared on his Facebook page the concern that China’s relationship with Iran is dangerous since it can lead to Iran securing dangerous weapons, that Iran is the largest sponsor of terrorism, and that this is against the interest the U.S.

Use your understanding of realism, considerations of morality, and the issue of domestic determinants of U.S. foreign policy, and describe how the United States should deal with Iran?

Your initial discussion postings (300-350 words) should demonstrate an understanding and analysis of the assigned readings and videos. It is helpful to reference the assigned material in your response demonstrating connections between your thoughts and the course resources.

Chapter Twelve Public Policy Barry D. Friedman

Learning Objectives After covering the topic of public policy, students should be able to:

1. dentify who has in uence in the ma ing of American public policy.

2. Explain the various “models” of public policy that political scientists have formulated to describe how public policy is developed in the United States.

3. Identify the assortment of instruments and devices available to the government for enforcing policies.

4. Describe the origin and implications of the national government’s chronic de cit spending.

Abstract i i c ci io o olicy o

o i ly l i l o bu l o cu i u c ib as public policies. While most of the contents of this textbook focus on the U. S. government’s institutions and their political intrigue, this chapter examines the outputs of these institutions and political activities. Public policy comes about in a plethora of ways, but political scientists have developed “models” to describe the most common processes that give birth to policies. The policy-process model describes how a problem is identi ed, how it comes to the attention of policymakers, and how a policy to address the problem is formulated and legitimated. Other models state that policies come about through incremental change, rational analysis, pursuit of individuals’ sel sh interests, interest groups’ competition with one another, cooperative efforts of those who specialize in a policy area, or direction by the elite class. The government possesses a range of instruments to accomplish policy execution—such as imprisonment, taxation, subsidies, and propaganda. The persistent demand from the public for services and bene ts has outpaced the national government’s ability to raise tax revenue to pay for their costs, resulting in annual budget de cits. These de cits have accumulated to a staggering total of almost $17 trillion (as of May 2013), which threatens to incapacitate the governmental system of the United States.



e ings t at vern ent es At any given time, many people have a lot of ideas about what they want

government to do. Sometimes, they want the government to do certain things that are necessary to promote the public interest; for example, they may have observed a lot of accidents at certain intersections in a small town, and believe that it is time for the local government to install traf c lights. Sometimes, they want government to do certain things that will ma e themselves, speci cally, better off. A legislator might want a new state highway, featuring a shiny new bridge that will cross a river, because he expects that his constituents will appreciate his effort and vote for his reelection. In fact, he may arrange for the bridge to be named after him. A lobbyist for an interest group may ask friendly legislators to arrange for a tax credit that bene ts the businesses that are af liated with his organization. All of this activity of demands, accommodations, and votes results in of cial government decisions. e often refer to such a decision or a set of decisions as a b ic ic .

The ingredients of public policies of the U. S. national government are found in documents and instruments such as these: the Constitution, the statutes, the appropriations laws that constitute the government’s budget, executive orders promulgated by the president, rules and regulations promulgated by regulatory agencies, and opinions of the Supreme Court. As a result of the decisions that all of these documents and instruments re ect, the national government can be said to have public policies in such policy areas as agriculture, consumer protection, crime suppression, the economy, education, energy, environmental protection, fairness in employment, foreign affairs, forest and park preservation, illicit drugs, housing, military operations and readiness, public health, relief for poor families, taxation, trade, transportation, and unemployment.

b ic ic es Ab t Public policies come about in numerous ways. Policy experts have

described a typical manner in which a policy comes about. The model presents a six-step olic rocess, and these steps occur in sequence as shown in the ow chart in Figure 12.1 Dye, 2 1 2 11, p. 2 .

272 The Basics of American Government



ig re i te olic rocess odel

Problem Identi cation

Agenda- setting

Formulation of Proposals

Legitimation of Proposals

Implement- ation


Here is an explanation of each of the steps to which the policy-process model refers:

Problem identi cation. The process begins when someone or some group identi es a problem that some segment of the population is experiencing. For example, a member of Congress may be receiving letters from constituents that express complaints about a particular situation. Or the news media may notice some kind of dif culty being experienced by some number of people, and report the problem to their viewers, listeners, and readers. Agenda-setting. Public policy scholars have conceived of an agenda o blic olic . On this agenda are supposedly listed policy problems that have come to the attention of public policymakers, such as the president or members of Congress, such that they now recognize the need to take some sort of actions to remedy the problems. According to this model, public policymakers are generally reluctant to acknowledge that they have to take action on some problem, because remedies cost money and money is scarce. So, the model says, it is only when the demands for action become numerous and adamant that policymakers conclude that they can no longer ignore the demands. At that point, the problem becomes an entry on the agenda of public policy. There really is no document that is entitled “The Agenda of Public Policy.” However, there are certain places to which you may direct your attention for clues about what problems are on this metaphorical agenda. If you would like to know what is on the president’s agenda, you might examine the content of his State of the Union message. If you would like to know what is on Congress’s agenda, you might examine the legislative calendars of the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively.

273Chapter Twelve: Public Policy



Formulation of proposals. The decision by policymakers to address a problem will prompt some kind of activity to formulate speci c proposals. Here are the kinds of people and institutions who, from time to time, formulate proposals:

Employees of the Executive Branch (bureaucrats) are known to be active in the formulation of proposals. Some of the most extensive pieces of legislation that have made their way through the legislative process are known to have originated in the bureaucracy. Congressional staff members—those who work for senators and representatives in their own of ces or who work for congressional committees—are known to be proli c authors of legislation. Interest groups may employ individuals, such as lawyers, who understand the legislative process and will deliver proposed bills to members of Congress and congressional committees. Think tanks often develop policy ideas. A think tank is an institution that employs scholars who develop policy proposals based on their knowledge in their respective

elds of study. The think tank will make the policy proposals available to policymakers who are looking for solutions to problems on the agenda of public policy.

Legitimation of proposals. In a democratic system like that of the United States, policies must be made legitimate before they can be put into effect. Here are some ways in which policies are legitimated:

When Congress enacts a bill, it provides legitimacy to the bill’s purpose and content. The public understands Congress to be the legitimate representative of the public, which elected the legislators, pursuant to Article I of the Constitution. When the president signs an act of Congress into law, he adds to the perception of the enactment’s legitimacy. The public acknowledges the president’s unique position as the only nationally elected of cial (along with the vice president), and respects his signature on the newly minted law.

274 The Basics of American Government



On occasion, a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of a law will be considered by the Supreme Court. When the court declares the law to be constitutional, the declaration causes the law to take on a virtually impenetrable aura of legitimacy. Policymakers depend on the Executive Branch of cials who administer a law to do so in a way that supports the appearance of legitimacy. For example, when an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation explains to a suspect that the suspect has been arrested because of his disobedience of a speci c law enacted by Congress and signed by the president, the agent is indicating that the arrest is occurring in accordance with the law and is not an arbitrary and capricious action by the bureau and other of cials of the criminal- ustice system.

Implementation. Once a policy has been enacted and signed into law, the executive branch is responsible for administering the law. Evaluation. At some point, and, policy specialists hope, at regular intervals, the execution and results of a policy will be evaluated to determine whether the policy is bene cial and the execution is effective. If not, the policy should be reconsidered and either redesigned or abandoned.

ore eci c odels o o and h artici ants ake blic olic Supplementing the policy process model that the previous section of

the chapter described are a number of other models that explain more speci cally who are in uential in making policy and what their motivations are when they participate in the policymaking process. The following list presents some of the most well-known models to which modern literature about American government often refers.

Incrementalism Model In 1 , Charles E. Lindblom published the rst description of the

incrementalism model o blic olic . Lindblom explained that most policy that the national government implements in a given year is simply the previous year’s policy with small (incremental) modi cations made to it. The logic is dif cult to challenge. Such an approach to

275Chapter Twelve: Public Policy



policymaking saves time as well as the arduous effort to innovate new policy technologies. This approach also allows the full use of existing organization, equipment, and other infrastructure, without having to acquire new kinds of resources to support a radically different policy approach. The government’s—particularly the bureaucracy’s—familiarity with the ongoing policy approach allows for the development of experience that contributes to ef ciency and gradual re nement of implementation methods. Few political scientists argue with the conventional wisdom that the incrementalism model is the best single explanation of policymaking in the national government.

Rationalism Model If incrementalism is the preferred method of policymaking, then the

rationalism model o blic olic is its theoretical antithesis. The rationalism model contends that the fundamental criterion for sound policy is the realization of the greatest possible net bene t (i.e., difference between bene t and cost) to society. The rationalism model proposes that policymakers who are trying to design a policy should consider the principles that society values, develop an assortment of policy alternatives that would satisfy society based on those principles, evaluate the policy alternatives, and then compare the alternatives and select the one best alternative (i.e., the optimal choice).

If there is one evaluation method that the largest number of proponents of the rationalism model advocates, it is the method of “cost-bene t analysis.” In evaluating a policy alternative, one would utilize cost-bene t analysis by listing and quantifying the costs associated with the alternative and then listing and quantifying the bene ts associated with the alternative. A value of net bene t can be computed by subtracting the sum of the costs from the sum of the bene ts. An alternative whose net bene t is less than zero could be eliminated without further thought. A value of bene t-cost ratio can be computed by dividing the sum of the bene ts by the sum of the costs. An alternative whose bene t-cost ratio is less than one could be eliminated without further thought.

We know that incrementalism comes naturally to public policymakers. In so far as rationalism does not come naturally, the model has to have advocates who try to persuade policymakers to actually try to utilize it. This effort by the advocates is an uphill battle, because of the complications

276 The Basics of American Government



associated with the rationalism model. Some of the complications are as follows:

The analytical process is exceptionally time consuming. Some of this time inevitably involves the acrimonious policy arguments (e.g., in the legislature) that deliberations about newly conceived policy proposals provoke. Because of the model’s methodological requirements that call on policy designers to list the possible policy alternatives, these policy designers are challenged to conceive of a number of currently nonexistent policy technologies. This process strains the human imagination. The radical redesign of policy may require existing organization, equipment, and other infrastructure to have to be replaced with new organization, equipment, and other infrastructure, at signi cant cost. Replacing policy approaches with which we have years of experience with newly designed approaches with which we have no experience introduces the signi cant threat that we will encounter unwelcome surprises when the new approaches are implemented. Such unanticipated consequences can be very costly and can agitate the general public, clients of agencies, and the government of cials who have to try to appease those who have suffered from the problems that were not foreseen.

Public-Choice Model Credit for the blic choice model o blic olic is given to James

M. Buchanan, Jr., who won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Economic Science for developing it. Buchanan explained that decisions about public policymaking are made by a wide range of individuals, all of whose actions are oriented toward the realization of their self-interests. The model traces these self-interest-oriented actions all the way back to each voter, who, as Anthony Downs (1957) explained, makes decisions about which candidates to vote for based on whose policy platforms will result in the most grati cation (especially wealth) for that individual. Downs similarly explained that political-party leaders in the United States prefer the development of party platforms that will appeal to the largest number

277Chapter Twelve: Public Policy



of voters, so that their political parties can win the upcoming elections. As chapter 7 of this book explains, members of Congress decide how to vote on bills based on whether the bills establish policies that will appeal to their constituents (e.g., policies that offer entitlement programs to the entire public or groups within the population and policies that supply “pork” to the senators’ states and the representatives’ congressional districts).

In summary, the public-choice model conceives of the arena of public policymaking as a giant marketplace of ideas, including policy proposals, in which government of cials and individual citizens “shop” for policies that will bene t them and then support them. The question of whether such self-interest-oriented decisions in the public policy arena can be aggregated to create any kind of coherent, productive result for society resembles the question of whether the self-interest-oriented decisions of business owners, employees, and shoppers can be aggregated to create any kind of coherent, productive result in the commercial and industrial marketplace. The capitalist economist Adam Smith (1776) argued that “the invisible hand” guides participants in the commercial and industrial marketplace to make self-interest-oriented decisions that, in the nal analysis, bene t society. The same logic can be applied, by analogy, to argue that self-interest-oriented decisions by individuals in the policy arena can similarly bene t all.

Group-Theory Model of Public Policy Based on David B. Truman’s classic monograph, The Governmental

Process: Political Interests and Public Opinion (1951), in which he describes the in uential role of interest groups in the American political system, policy scholars such as Dye (2010/2011, pp. 19-20) have conceived of a gro theor model o blic olic . Dye presents a diagram that illustrates, for a theoretical policy matter, a scale of alternative policy options on which the existence of competing special-interest groups is noted. On this diagram (see Figure 12.2), the existence of two such groups is indicated by circles that are drawn (1) at the groups’ respective positions on the scale of alternative policy options and (2) in relative proportion to the groups’ in uence (in terms of number of members, wealth, connection to in uential decision-makers, and so on).

278 The Basics of American Government



ig re cale o Alternative olic O tions or om eting ro s


The triangle (analogous to a fulcrum that balances a see-saw or other lever) is placed under the scale at a location that “balances” Group A and Group B’s respective interests. Note, on this theoretical example, that the fulcrum is located closer to the larger Group A’s position in deference to A’s size, but not completely at A’s extreme position in deference to Group B’s existence.

Accordingly, this model states that policymakers determine where to set policy based on the competition of the interest groups that are active in the particular task environment for the policy area.

As an example, consider the policy area related to abortion. In 1973, the U. S. Supreme Court handed down its opinion in the case of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). Confronted with a heated policy debate involving the pro-life and pro-choice groups, the court handed neither group a conclusive victory. Instead, it split the difference, prohibiting state legislatures from outlawing abortion during the rst trimester of a pregnancy and allowing state legislatures to outlaw abortion (with certain speci c exceptions) in the third trimester. Of course, the court, in its opinion written by Associate Justice Harry A. Blackmun, did not explain its rationale in these pragmatic terms, in accordance with its practice of citing provisions of the Constitution and the laws. But the effort to provide some sort of satisfaction to both sides is unmistakably identi able.

Subgovernment Model of Public Policy The s bgovernment model o blic olic states that, in any

particular policy area, there is an “iron triangle” partnership involving the

279Chapter Twelve: Public Policy



congressional committees, executive department or agency, and interest groups active in that policy area that dominates policy in that policy area. This in uential model of public policymaking has already been described in chapter 5.

Elitism Model of Public Policy In 1956, the sociologist C. Wright Mills published a memorable

work entitled The Power Elite. Mills states the disconcerting fact that wealthy Americans have a disproportionate amount of in uence in the determination of what public policy will be. In interpreting Mills’s theory, Dye (2010/2011, p. 21) produces this diagram (Figure 12.3):

ig re litism odel o blic olic

According to this elitism model o blic olic , the elites provide policy direction to the of cials and administrators. The population of of cials and administrators includes elected and appointed government of cials, such as the employees of the bureaucracy. The of cials and administrators impose policy execution upon the masses. Mills dismisses the question of whether elections allow the masses to control the policy decisions of of cials and administrators by characterizing American elections as a sham. In the nal analysis, Mills insists, the of cials and administrators will do what the elites require. The possession of enormous wealth seems to guarantee the aristocrat a position of in uence. Really, what does any ordinary person do when he meets a wealthy person: challenge him or try to charm him?

280 The Basics of American Government



Other Models of Public Policy The list of models that appears above includes some of the most popular

models. This chapter does not list and describe the other models. Policy scholars believe that the incrementalism model is the best explanation for policy decisions, but others may very well be useful in describing how policy develops in certain circumstances. Being aware of these models can help an observer of politics and government to explain how some of the most visible policies arise in the American system.

nstr ments o blic olic Max Weber (1918) wrote that government has “a monopoly of the

legitimate use of physical force.” While private-sector organizations have no mechanisms for compelling the public to act in accordance with their preferences, obviously the range of instruments available to the government to in uence citizens’ behavior is much wider than the range of those available to other entities. A list of the instruments of public policy that government can use follows.

Imprisonment and Capital Punishment The government has the unique capacity to punish disobedience

to government policy by an individual through taking away his liberty by imprisoning him or through taking his life by executing him. In a liberal society like the United States, the government exercises restraint in taking such action. For example, the Bill of Rights requires that an accused individual be accorded due process before a prison sentence or capital punishment can be in icted on him, and limits, to some degree, the kinds of actions for which a person may be punished. Nobody may be punished for exercising civil liberties; the First Amendment, for example, guarantees that nobody will be imprisoned solely on account of making unpopular political statements.

Fines While not quite so severe as the penalties of imprisonment and

execution, nes may be imposed by the government as the consequence of disobedience to public policies. Speeding tickets and parking tickets are examples of misdemeanor offenses that may result in nes. The punishment for many felonies involves imprisonment or nes or a combination of the two.

281Chapter Twelve: Public Policy



Conscription When it needs personnel for such purposes as to staff the Army to

prepare for or wage military con ict, the government has the power to conscript (draft) individuals for certain periods of time, taking them from their homes and relocating them to a place—in the United States or elsewhere—that the government nds convenient.

Taking of Property The government has the impressive power to condemn an individual’s

property and to convert the property to the government’s use. This power is known as eminent domain. The Fifth Amendment requires that the government pay for the property, but, in the nal analysis, the amount of the payment will ultimately be determined by the government’s judiciary if the individual and the government do not reach a mutually agreeable settle- ment. A common reason for the government to take somebody’s property would be to obtain the land necessary to build a new interstate highway.

Taxation Another government power—one that citizens dislike but tolerate—

is the government’s power to tax a variety of items and activities. The national, state, and local governments tax earned income (payroll tax), total amounts of earned and unearned income (income tax), pro ts resulting from the appreciation of value of property and investments (capital-gains tax), property such as real estate and automobiles (property tax), retail purchases according to price (sales tax), retail purchases according to quantity of an item (excise tax), gifts (gift tax), and inheritances (estate tax). Although an income tax will tend to discourage some people from earning income, in so far as a tax is a penalty on the thing being taxed, the national government has greatly complicated the income-tax law (the Internal Revenue Code) to encourage certain behaviors. The mechanisms of the income-tax law that encourage behaviors are known as loopholes, deductions, and credits. An example is the government’s desire to encourage home ownership. In order to persuade more people to buy a home, Congress inserted a provision in the Internal Revenue Code to allow taxpayers to deduct the mortgage interest that they pay from their individual amount of income when they calculate how much tax they must pay on that income. Another example is the government’s desire to

282 The Basics of American Government



encourage people to donate to charities. A person’s donations to charities are deductible, just as mortgage interest is deductible.

User Fees The government may charge individuals who use certain government

services for the use of those services. Such charges are called user fees. An example is a toll that might be charged for operating a motor vehicle on a highway. Government corporations such as Amtrak and the Postal Service support themselves mostly through the collection of user fees.

Subsidies The government may endeavor to in uence individuals’ behavior

by offering a subsidy. For example, Congress has offered subsidies to farmers who plant certain crops or who refrain from planting certain crops, depending on how the national government has wanted to affect the supply of such crops. The farmer simply receives a check from the U. S. Treasury to pay him for his cooperation.

Bene ts, Including “Entitlements” For the purpose of helping a disadvantaged group, or for the purpose

of helping some constituency whose favor legislators would like to curry, the government may bestow a bene t. Medicaid—health care paid for by the government—is offered to poor people so that they do not nd medical assistance to be inaccessible. eterans receive an array of bene ts, many of which are administered by the Department of eterans Affairs; these bene ts include health care and college tuition assistance. There are some bene ts that are awarded selectively to applicants in accordance with the discretion of government of cials. For example, the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development may have the discretion to decide whether to provide funding to a community for a proposed housing project. On the other hand, some bene ts are known as entitlement programs. In the case of these programs, the law describes the quali cations for obtaining the bene t, and every individual who quali es is entitled to the bene t; program of cials do not have the discretion to deny the individual’s application for the bene t to which he is legally entitled. Therefore, the entitlement bene t is, under the law, the quali ed individual’s property. He is entitled to the bene t as long as he continues to satisfy the criteria of the program.

283Chapter Twelve: Public Policy



Ad usting Monetary ariables The Federal Reserve Board affects the economy by adjusting the

nation’s monetary arrangements. For example, the board may adjust the discount interest rate—the rate at which it loans money to banks—or adjust the money supply, for the purpose of causing interest rates on loans to rise or fall.

Propaganda and Persuasion The government may attempt to affect the public’s behavior through

propaganda—rhetoric designed to in uence how people think about politics, government, and society. Government agencies generate colossal amounts of written and oral communication to try to obtain support and in uence behavior. This and other efforts at persuasion are designed to cause the public to act in a certain way without using policy instruments that involve the use of more forceful government power. Governments have sometimes used persuasion to try to in uence people to carpool to work, refrain from littering, join the volunteer Army, and mail Christmas gifts weeks before the holiday.

Laissez Faire Inaction Lastly, the government may decide to do nothing about a problem along

the lines of the approach of laissez faire. This is still considered a public policy. There are many public health activists who encourage the national government to provide free needles to drug addicts because such a program could arguably suppress the spread of the HI virus. Congress has received this advice and made a conscious decision to do nothing about it. This, too, is a policy.

ublic olic and one Obviously, there is a close association between public policy and

money. Hardly any public policy to accomplish something can be implemented without money. It is the duty of the legislature to arrange for the Executive Branch to have funds so that the laws can be administered. Congress enacts laws for such purposes as to impose taxes so that revenue can be raised. Then, Congress enacts appropriation laws to appropriate money for the use of the Executive Branch. The U. S. Constitution states, in Article I, Section 9, “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law. . .”

284 The Basics of American Government




Each January, the president presents to Congress the proposed budget of the national government, which the Of ce of Management and Budget has developed under the president’s supervision, for the scal year that will begin later that year on October 1. Much of Congress’s attention for the nine months that follow is directed toward considering the president’s proposed budget, deciding on Congress’s own preferences for how money should be spent, and enacting a set of appropriation laws. Once Congress has enacted, and the president has signed, these laws, the national government has a budget for the upcoming scal year.

The national government’s budgeting process is guided by the incrementalism model of public policy that is discussed above. That is to say, the most important determinant of the budget of a particular bureau is how much the bureau was awarded for the preceding scal year. Routinely, the president and Congress will provide for a bureau the appropriation amount that it received for the previous year plus a modest increase. Only a speci c change in policy would tend to signi cantly change the size of a bureau’s budget either upward or downward.

A government bureau must exercise discipline in ensuring that it will not overspend its appropriation. If OMB of cials determine that a bureau is failing to “live within its means,” the of cials may proceed to intervene in the bureau’s managerial processes. There is, however, one glaring exception, which involves the entitlement programs discussed above. An entitlement program cannot “run out” of money. The president is obligated to ensure that funds are made available for entitlement programs, without limit, even as new applicants come forward and demonstrate their eligibility. For example, if a veteran is quali ed for a tuition bene t that is an entitlement under the law, no government of cial can tell the veteran that a quota has been reached. The of cial must award the bene t, and the president and his subordinates must ensure that the money is available to fund it.

Entitlement programs grow, but they never go away. As James Q. Wilson explains, “An entitlement, once bestowed, cannot easily be withdrawn” (1975, p. 89). The bene ciaries of an entitlement program will ght like lions if their entitlement is threatened. The late House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr. observed ruefully that Social Security is “the third rail’ of American politics,” so dangerous is it for elected of cials to even speak about decreasing the program’s bene ts. (O’Neill’s “third rail” metaphor refers to the high-voltage rail that powers electri ed railroad trains, such as most subway trains.)

Chapter Twelve: Public Policy




You have probably heard the news that the national government has been spending more for programs than it is collecting in revenue. Every year, the national government operates “in the red”—with a de cit. The national government’s de cit in a given scal year adds to the accumulated amount of the government’s debt. In 2013, the debt has surpassed the astronomical sum of $16.7 trillion. Comparing this amount to the gross domestic product of the United States in 2012—$15.1 trillion—should make the problem clear to any astute observer. The national government’s debt is now larger than the size of the nation’s entire economy!

In Chapter 7, there is a discussion of the strategies that members of Congress use to get reelected. These strategies include insertions in laws of provisions for “pork” projects for members’ states and congressional districts. They also include the creation of entitlement programs, and assortments of other kinds of bene ts. Members of Congress—regardless of their political-party af liation—have been so determined to ensure their reelection that they have been indiscriminate in creating and expanding these programs. The national government reached the point that no more programs could be funded with current-year tax revenues. Undeterred, members of Congress proceeded to fund new programs and program expansions with de cit spending, as a way of life. By now, the debt that has accumulated is beyond the nation’s ability to repay. Much of this debt is owed to foreign investors, who will—sooner or later—want to be repaid with interest.

Aggravating the problem of de cit spending has been the nation’s continuing involvement in extraordinarily expensive military operations in such places as Afghanistan and Iraq. During previous military operations, such as World Wars I and II, the United States undertook two or four years worth of warfare, nanced by debt. The Global War on Terrorism—a real war with sprawling and active U. S. military involvement—is in its 10th very expensive year. Any of cial who might have fantasized about balancing the national government’s budget would have thrown in the towel upon realizing that these expenditures are an apparently permanent component of the budget.

At this point, no reputable economist will deny that there will be consequences for this decades long, reckless spending spree. Economists do argue about what the consequences will actually be. One consequence is already recognizable: The hands of national-government policymakers

The Basics of American Government




are clearly tied by the monstrous debt. Many proposed programs that might really be needed today to respond to real problems are being set aside because the national government is broke. Many Americans who voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 are wondering aloud why he is not “doing more,” but where is the president going to nd money to fund more programs? How the national government will nance the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which the president signed into law on March 23, 2010, remains an intriguing mystery. One of the sad facts of the government’s indebtedness is that our college-age population, younger children, and children not even born yet will not be able to escape the consequences of our presidents’ and Congress’s lamentable irresponsibility. For years, critics warned policymakers that they were “mortgaging our children’s future.” Presidents and members of Congress ignored these critics. But, without a doubt, the bill will come due.

Discussion Questions 1. Is the process of public policymaking in the United States one that

is dominated by a few in uential decision-makers or that results from widely dispersed opportunities to participate? Explain.

2. Which model of public policymaking do you consider to be most persuasive?

3. What factors lead Congress to use the threat of imprisonment as an instrument of policy in some cases, and persuasion in other cases?

4. If you were president, what would you do about the national government’s $14-trillion debt? What implications of your approach might you anticipate?

References Downs, A. (1957). An economic theory of democracy. New York, NY:

Harper and Row.

Dye, T. R. (2010/2011). Understanding public policy, (13th Ed.). Boston, MA: Longman/Pearson Education.

Lindblom, C. E. (1959). The science of muddling through’. Public Administration Review, 19, 79-88.

Chapter Twelve: Public Policy



Mills, C.W. (1956). The power elite. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Smith, A. (1776). An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. London, England: W. Strahan and T. Cadell.

Truman, D. B. (1951). The governmental process: Political interests and public opinion. New York, NY: Albert A. Knopf.

Weber, M. (1918, January). Politics as a vocation. Speech presented at Munich University, Munich, Germany.

Wilson, J. Q. (1975). The rise of the bureaucratic state. Public Interest, 41, 77-103.

The Basics of American Government288

"Looking for a Similar Assignment? Get Expert Help at an Amazing Discount!"