By Nicolas Duquette, University of Southern California
Fifty years ago this year, the central piece of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty — the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (EOA) — was passed. This law was unusual both in its ambition to eliminate US poverty and in its implementation. Instead of directing funds to state anti-poverty programs, the Johnson administration had the power and discretion to make grants directly to community organizations with minimal oversight from state or local governments or from Congress. The outgrowth of this federal-local collaboration, the Community Action Program, engendered several enduring and popular anti-poverty programs, including Head Start and Community Health Centers. Yet, the popular memory of Johnson’s efforts is one of overwhelming failure. President Reagan joked in his 1988 State of the Union Address, to hearty laughter, that, “the federal government fought the war on poverty, and poverty won,” a feeling shared by critics of Johnson on the political left and the right.
This is an excerpt from Above Politics: Bureaucratic Discretion and Credible Commitment, written with Gary J. Miller of Washington University in St. Louis. This book manuscript is under contract with Cambridge University Press. It is not yet accepted for publication though.
One important legacy of the Great Recession has been that the Federal Reserve expanded the tools in its arsenal for guiding monetary policy by adding “unconventional” policy options like large-scale asset purchases now known collectively as “quantitative easing” (QE). While it will take years for us to fully understand the power of such options, it is clear that QE has changed how we think about the Fed and its role in the American political economy.
On July 10, 2014, the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services held hearings on H.R. 5018, the “Federal Reserve Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014,” a bill sponsored by Representative Bill Huizenga (R-MI):
to amend the Federal Reserve Act to establish requirements for policy rules and blackout periods of the Federal Open Market Committee, to establish requirements for certain activities of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and for other purposes.
By William Resh (@billresh), University of Southern California
As Gary Hollibaugh, Jr. and colleagues plainly stated on the LSE blog, “Presidential appointees matter.” Of course, this is of little question when these positions are filled. Incompetent appointees cause deleterious consequences for both citizens and presidents. But, what about those positions reserved for Senate-confirmed presidential appointees (PAS) that remain empty?
A report last year by Pro Publica grouses that the Obama administration has been subject to more vacancies than previous administrations—in both independent and executive branch agencies (see Figure 1). Yet, occupancy is often legislatively required in independent commissions and agencies before agency action can be triggered. Therefore, outcomes (or a lack thereof) are easier to identify during periods of vacancy in those positions (at least anecdotally), whereas the effects vacancies have on agency performance in executive branch agencies generally may be less evident. The substantive importance of filling these positions in executive branch agencies is not empirically established. In terms of functional performance, “the evidence linking appointee continuity and agency performance remains largely anecdotal” (Dull & Roberts 2009, 445).
By Alice Chen, University of Chicago, Booth School of Business
There is a growing concern that too few physicians are willing to accept Medicaid patients. One way to encourage Medicaid supply is to pay doctors more for performing Medicaid-covered procedures. However, we lack a holistic understanding of how changes to Medicaid payments affect access to care among the broader population.
Understanding how Medicaid policies affect the breadth of physician behavior, and not just the Medicaid market, is particularly important, because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will change the entire distribution of insurance enrollments. In addition to 11 million new Medicaid enrollees, 24 million people will enroll in private health insurance exchanges, and 30 million people will remain uninsured (Congressional Budget Office 2012). If physicians are unwilling to treat patients with a particular type of insurance, then obtaining coverage may not improve access to care. This concern has already manifested itself among Medicaid patients. As illustrated in Figure 1 below, the percentage of practices offering any care to Medicaid patients has fallen from 87% in 1996 to 81% in 2008. Continue reading
The global role of the EU in the post-Lisbon Treaty era and in a multi-polar world has been the focus of numerous academic and policymaking debates. This is exactly the topic of the timely volume The EU‘s Foreign Policy: What Kind of Power and Diplomatic Action? The themes of power and coherence are central to the volume chapters. In terms of coherence, the emphasis is placed on the horizontal and internal levels. Horizontal coherence refers to the absence of contradictions and presence of positive synergies between the policy objectives of different EU policy areas, as well as the compatibility of the supranational and intergovernmental decision-making and implementation processes. Internal coherence refers to the presence or absence of positive synergies between the policy instruments/initiatives used in the same policy area as well as the presence of an integrated bureaucratic and decision-making system in a given policy area. Continue reading
Six months ago, open enrollment began under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplaces. It is arguably the single biggest moment in U.S. health policy since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.
Has it been perfect? No, of course not, and even the President admitted to early missteps in implementation. As expected with any new program, particularly one as sweeping as the ACA, there were and will be challenges. What is more important is that a majority of the early issues were successfully overcome, and more than 7.5 million Americans have obtained health insurance through the ACA. Americans can now obtain affordable coverage with guaranteed issuance and are no longer job-locked or cast to the winds of the individual market to buy health coverage. Continue reading
It is difficult to discuss electoral politics in the United States without talking in terms of social groups. Journalistic accounts of party competition often stress the important role that specific constituencies play (such as the “evangelical” or “Latino” vote) in determining the outcome of presidential elections. A great deal of political science research has shown that these social cleavages structure party competition. However, the political importance of these social cleavages can change, which can lead to a reshuffling of the social bases of the party coalitions. In addition, demographic changes have the potential to dramatically reshape the political landscape, as new groups enter the electorate and the ratio of existing groups changes. I am interested in how changes in the cleavage structure and in the ratio of groups work in conjunction to transform electoral coalitions. In new research, I investigated two related questions: what group memberships influence individual level voting behavior and how has the number of votes each political relevant group contributes to the party coalitions changed over time?
We are now about halfway through our five-year term of office as editors of JPP. It is good moment to reflect on our achievements so far and to consider what is to come next. We hope you think it is fair to say that we have firmly put our stamp on the journal, not least by its new, striking design and changes to its editorial style. The journal has expanded, too. Though we still publish three issues per year, we have increased the number of articles in each issue to between six and eight. There is more throughput overall, which reflects the greater number of submissions, particularly from younger scholars. Further, we are able to quickly disseminate author manuscripts online well before print production using FirstView. We are quite pleased about the high quality of the papers we are getting and seeing them improve during the editorial process until they are released to our readers.
We trust scholars in the public policy community now know more about who we are and the nature of the journal and can observe our presence at conferences and other academic gatherings. We also use Twitter and have a blog to augment our digital presence and real-time engagement with our readers and experts in the field regarding current issues of JPP, policy topic matter in academia and current events relevant to public policy. We are now defining our strategic plan so that the next steps we take will support our success in future years. A strong part of this involves drawing upon the members of our expanded editorial board, who have a great deal of expertise from which we have regularly drawn to guide our work. Continue reading
*The authors received the BVPA Publication Award for their article in 2014.
Why coalition positions matter for access to policymakers
Getting a foot in the government’s door is one of the core challenges for interest groups to successfully influence public policy. While outside lobbying and media strategies are certainly important, direct access to policymakers seems to count most in the exercise of influence. The access interest groups enjoy is often conceptualized as a mutually beneficial exchange between public officials and interest groups in which the transmission of policy relevant information has a central place. Interest groups exchange technical expertise and political information about their constituencies’ support in return for access to the policy process, be it control over policy outcomes or the ability to monitor information on the policy process. Policy officials are open to the information interest groups supply, because they face limited capabilities in terms of time, resources and agenda space. Yet, because of their limited capabilities and the transaction costs associated with interactions with interest groups, policymakers cannot exchange resources with every individual interest group. A large number of interest groups will rarely, if ever, gain direct access to policymakers. This creates a strong incentive for interest groups to strategize their attempts to access policymakers as efficiently and effectively as possible. More to the point, when transaction costs are high, joining forces and collectively aiming to impact policy may have strong added value. It is, indeed, well-established in the literature that forging coalitions is fundamentally geared to achieve lobby success. In the end, joining forces should yield substantial benefits compared to individual lobbying, including most notably gaining direct access to policymakers and the realizing favorable policy outcomes. Continue reading