Read/review the following resources for this activity:
- Textbook: Chapter 11
- Minimum of 1 scholarly source (in addition to the textbook)
Initial Post Instructions
Agenda setting can be a difficult task in government. Why? Who do you consider an important agenda setter in government? How does this participant help set the agenda? Give an example of an attempt at agenda setting in government. Was it successful? Why or why not? Consider how factors such as culture, political positions, etc. might impact your own, or the agenda setters’ priorities.
Use evidence (cite sources) to support your response from assigned readings or online lessons, and at least one outside scholarly source.
Follow-Up Post Instructions
Respond to at least two peers or one peer and the instructor. Further the dialogue by providing more information and clarification. Minimum of 1 scholarly source, which can include your textbook or assigned readings or may be from your additional scholarly research.
- Minimum of 3 posts (1 initial & 2 follow-up)
- Minimum of 2 sources cited (assigned readings/online lessons and an outside scholarly source)
- APA format for in-text citations and list of references
Hello Professor and Class,
Agenda setting is the most difficult because first and foremost the problem must make it to the agenda for those in power to review, (Whitman Cobb, 2019). One way to get an issue noticed is by using the media. The media has enormous power to influence the public on topics of politics, economy, culture, etc. The public and media’s response to a situation may gain elite or government attention. Interest groups also have an impact on agenda setting by influencing political process or by blocking the agenda, (Owens and Lamm, n.d.).
The president is most powerful agenda setter. When a president focuses on a topic, this alerts congress to the significance of the issue. Presidents also use the State of the Union address to let the public know policies they feel are most important and want to focus on, (Whitman Cobb, 2019).
The most current political agenda was the effort to impeachment former President Trump. Several impeachment attempts were made during his term, with the last one being after the Capital riot on January 6, 2021. On January 7, 2021, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for Trumps removal under the 25th Amendment or prepare for impeachment, (Johnson, 2021). Trump was not removed from office, so the impeachment process began. Agenda setters include the Senate, House of Representatives, and the media who played an instrumental part in this.
New York Post reports former President Trump was acquitted, vote was 57 (guilty) to 43; 67 votes were needed for a conviction. U.S.A., (Moore, M, 2021).
Agenda setting is a difficult task in government since the amount of political attention given to different issues varies in that issues that get government attention are often political agendas and interest and non-governmental groups may have an influence on public issues. An important agenda setter is vital to the government as many issues can be changed with their influence. The government has the active participants who are greatly involved in the agenda setting. The decisions of these government officials is impacted by out side forces for example, the interest groups. The president is most powerful agenda setter. When a president focuses on a topic, this alerts congress to the significance of the issue. Presidents also use the State of the Union address to let the public know policies they feel are most important and want to focus on (Cobb, 2019). Some may argue that legislators are the most important agenda setters in government as they have the power to vote in favor or against a bill (Fouirnaies, 2018).
An example of an attempt at agenda setting is the tobacco control in the Dutch government. There was a low urgency in tobacco control in Dutch due to its political orientation, this occurred due to the fact that they were preoccupied with an economic crises at the time (Willemsen, 2018). Interest groups, tobacco control organizations, and the tobacco industry were successful in not drawing attention to this issue through framing.
Donating firms achieve their political goals by influencing the legislative agenda rather than focusing on legislators’ votes. Leaders cannot promote an agenda unless it is aligned with the interest of median legislator, in addition, the majority party leaders use their privileges to advance the electoral fortune of the members of the majority party (Fouirnaies, 2018). Special interest groups are able to sway legislative agenda. Cultures and traditions of other states played a role in attempting to influence viewers as well as establish a hierarchy of news prevalence.
Woodrow Wilson is considered by many to be the father of public administration. As an academic, heavily influenced by the progressive movement, he focused on improving administration. Wilson’s dichotomy of politics and public administration postulates that elected officials are responsible to the citizens to make laws to solve problems while public administrators are accountable to the elected officials and have a duty to carry out the law (Wilson,1887). In reality, it is impossible to separate public administration from politics. Politics and public administration are intertwined. Politicians pass legislation that decides who gets what, but public administrations carry out the policy based on their interpretation of the law. Elected officials will make changes in policy that change the work of public administrators. These public administrators have the institutional memory of the issue area and may not agree with the elected officials’ decisions. This conflict is part of politics. Wilson’s goal was to make public administration like a science, based on processes with structure, to keep it on the straight and narrow road. His vision was to make it more business-like and less susceptible to the spoils system. The spoils system refers to a system of patronage that the progressive era rebuked. In the spoils system, supporters of the winning party are often rewarded with favors such as political appointments. Wilson wanted public administration to be organized and responsive to the electorate’s needs, not beholden to political favors.
In discussing public administration, we are considering the agencies and the agencies’ employees of the federal, state and local governments. The workers of these agencies, public administrators, are often called bureaucrats. These agencies carry out laws enacted by the legislatures. The executives in government are elected officials or political appointees. Public administrators or bureaucrats are deemed experts in their own policy areas so legislatures often leave complicated portions of legislation for these workers to sort out. Given that most legislators are generalists in the legal field, they leave the details to the experts in the agencies or the bureaucracy. For example, you would not want Congress setting the parameters for disease prevention and preparedness, would you? It is best to leave that job to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most public administrators are career public servants that provide continuity and advice as political administrations change.
We expect government to solve the problems we identify. Remembering our definition of politics, public administrators help decide what to do about these problems and how to do it. It goes without saying that there will be conflicts as different values and expectations clash in society. Citizens want government that is effective. They also want government that is efficient and accountable.
Accountability in Government
What is accountability in public administration? First, public administrators must themselves obey the law. The rule of law remains a founding principle of our government. It means that no one is above the law. This concept dates back to early England and the Magna Carta. Secondly, public administrators must adhere to the instructions given to them by their superiors who are often elected officials carrying out the will of the people. Third, public administrators are expected to behave ethically. Finally, public administrators are expected to be efficient and economical. As stewards of public trust, they must guard our tax dollars.
The Founding Fathers said little about the administration of government because “the functions of government were simple, because life itself was simple” (Wilson, 1887). As the population grew, so did its problems and needs of its citizens – things were no longer so simple. During the first one hundred years, the government grew slowly and the bureaucracy consisted mostly of postal workers. The federal and state governments continued to operate in the separate spheres until the signing of the Morrill Act in 1862 by President Lincoln. The Morrill Act is considered the first federal grant-in-aid program in the United States. It provided for land grants to help fund public university education within the states. Grants by the federal government to the states increased over time.
The Great Depression brought with it a large expansion of government as Roosevelt’s New Deal was implemented to bring the country out of despair. Roosevelt’s first one hundred days alone in office saw the federal bureaucracy expand by fifteen agencies. Grant-in-aid was used as a major policy instrument.
A second expansion in bureaucracy took place in the 1960s with L.B. Johnson’s Great Society. The Great Society declared war on poverty and greatly expanded social programs. Programs such as Head Start, Medicaid, and Medicare were enacted. Johnson’s legislative agenda provided grant-in-aid to numerous programs. These programs were successful in driving down poverty, but raised government debt.
Roosevelt and Johnson sought to redistribute wealth through the use of government programs run by the bureaucracy. The increase in the number and size of programs, heavily contributed to the increase in size of the bureaucracy. Both of these presidential initiatives set an agenda for policy making, or the development of public policy.
Public policy is policy made by government. It can be a law enacted by the legislature, or it can be rules developed by agencies, or even decisions made by judges. The Affordable Care Act of 2009 (ACA) or Obamacare was enacted by Congress to strengthen our health care system. Your state department of motor vehicles might make rules concerning what documents are needed to register your car. The US Supreme Court ended legal segregation of schools with its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1952). All three of these cases are examples of the making of public policy.
Political scientist, Thomas Dye, tells us that public policy is what government chooses to do and what government chooses not to do (Dye, 1992). While his meaning is quite clear in saying public policy is what government chooses to do, what does the second piece of the statement mean? It is simple. If government chooses not to do something about an issue, it is still public policy. For example, if a pothole forms in the street on which you live, you expect government to do something about it if you bring this development to the attention of officials. However, if for some reason nothing is done about the pothole, whether it is due to budget cuts or other reasons, this inaction becomes policy. Inaction by government is policy. It is a choice made by government.
Who carries out public policy? Public policy is carried out by public administrators or bureaucrats. They follow legislation enacted by a legislative body or initiated by a court order to accomplish a goal. The task is meant to solve an issue or problem that society finds important. Before a problem can be solved, it must be defined. This task can be a bit harder than it seems. For example, let’s take the problem of illegal immigration. What is the underlying issue? Is it people breaking the law? Is it a broken legal immigration system? Does immigration put a strain on the American economy or does it help the American economy? We could probably come up with several more possible problem definitions. Which one is the right one? Until we can agree, we cannot formulate policy to solve the problem.
The Policy Process
How public policy is enacted is known as the policy process. The policy process can essentially be broken down into five stages:
- Agenda Setting
- Policy formation
Each of these stages can take months, years, or even decades to evolve after you have a concrete problem definition in place.
Agenda setting: The agenda is a list of the problems that government is working on solving. In order for a problem or issue to be placed on the agenda is must be recognized. A problem is not a problem unless it is perceived as one. For example, cigarette smoking was seen as glamorous and even healthy for many years. It was not until smoking was recognized as a problem that caused cancer that it became an item for the agenda. Even then, it took decades and several iterations of policy making to make a dent in the problem, only for a new version of the problem to surface as vaping. Some problems need constant monitoring to keep up with innovation and technology.
Policy formation: The policy formation stage occurs as participants discuss and debate alternative policy choices. Analysis is performed by the bureaucracy; legislators and their staff; and, interest groups. Each of these participants will support their preferred policy choice, instrument, and/or position. Policy instruments can include regulation, government management, taxing/spending, market mechanisms, and education/information.
Launch External ToolAdoption: Decision-makers choose the appropriate policy to solve the problem addressed. Laws are passed by legislative bodies. Resources are allocated to support the policy and execute it. This stage can be difficult if all the participants are not in agreement. It is also important to get the public on board. Favorable reporting by the media will assist in getting public approval. Policies that do not have public backing are not likely to be implemented. For example, President Clinton’s health reform initiative did not get favorable media coverage and was not adopted.
Implementation: Policy is put into action! Funds are dispersed to support the policy. Refining regulations may need to be put into place by the bureaucracy. It is important that legislators or other adopting bodies convey their intentions to the bureaucracy. Instructions that are too vague or ambiguous may not be successful. Clear goals must be established in order for implementation to be successful. Additionally, the proper resources must be allocated for a policy to be successfully implemented. Much of the problems with President G.W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program have been attributed to resources being diverted to the 9/11 crisis. Without proper funding, the program which had been the cornerstone of the Bush Administration, was not the success envisioned.
Evaluation: Evaluation is an important stage of the process that is often overlooked. This stage provides feedback and allows for adjustments to policy. Methods for evaluating programs or policy should be established as the policy is developed to ensure that goals are measured correctly and in a timely fashion. Has the policy accomplished what it is was supposed to? Were the goals achieved? What was the impact? Were there any unforeseen circumstances in the implementation?
Let’s review. Drag the text to its appropriate stage.
Public administration is a mechanism that helps implement public policy. The size and scope of this part of government expanded greatly in the US in the last century due to an increase in public policy attributed to population growth and the need for government problem solving. Public policy helps solve the problems and issues that concern citizens. Law makers pass legislation which is carried out by public administration or the bureaucracy. The legislation often needs refinement which is accomplished by bureaucrats who are experts in their fields. Public policy does not occur in a vacuum
Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
Dye, T. R., & Dye, T. R. (1992). Understanding public policy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Wilson, W. (1887). The study of administration. Political science quarterly, 2(2), 197-222.