Political Science at Huntingdon College
Huntingdon College | Political Science | Courses | What's New?
PSC 201: American Government

Serow (ed) Lanahan Readings in the American Polity, 4/e

Part 7: Executive Branch, student outlines

compiled from student contributions (thanks) by Jeremy Lewis. Revised 12/3/17

39: Hugh Heclo, "A Government of Strangers". [#]
41: Reich, "Locked in the Cabinet"
40: Paul Light, " A Government Ill Executed"
42: J.Q. Wilson, "Bureaucracy".
Aberbach & Rockman, "In the Web of Politics" [+] 
Robert Trattner, "2000 Prune Book" [discontinued]
David Osborne & Ted Gaebler, Reinventing Government. [discontinued]

37: Hugh Heclo, A Government of Strangers
(Tiffany Tolbert, 2000)

Heclo talks about the tension that is between the bureaucrats (those chosen for government jobs by merit exams) and the political appointees (cabinet members). He says there is this tension because the bureaucrats have "a legitimate interest in maintaining the integrity of government programs and organizations" and the political executives are suppose to have a bigger responsibility: "to guide rather than merely reflect the sum of special interests at work in the executive branch." This is what causes the tension between the two and he goes on to explain the different types of sabotage that goes on in the executive branch between them.

"The administrative machinery in Washington represents a number of fragmented power centers rather than a set of subordinate units under the President."

1. Washington sub governments

1. They are separated along a line of well-established functional specialties and program interest that link particular government bureaus, congressional committees and interest groups
2. They exist regardless of government reorganizations
3. They are able to prevent reorganizations that they do not like
4. All of these sub governments share the same interest across the executive and legislative branches
5. The ultimate purpose is to become "self-sustaining in control of power in its own sphere
"The structure of most bureaucratic sabotage has been characterized as an "iron triangle" uniting a particular government bureau, its relevant interest groups, and congressional supporters."
· The aims of the people in these "iron triangles" can be either for personal gain (individual profiteering and empire-building) or some truly want to help people (they all claim to be representing the unrepresentative).
· Sabotage is unrecognizable because of the all most invisible way civil servants can act badly toward political executives.
1. They communicate with a minimum of words
· Political Appointees can encounter much more vigorous forms of sabotage
1. Passing of unauthorized massages [that should be messages - ed.]
2. Routine leaks to build credit and keep channels open for when they might be needed
3. Positive leaks to promote something
4. Negative leaks to discredit a person or policy
5. Counter leaks
6. Reverse leak - an unauthorized release of information apparently for one reason but actually accomplishing the opposite
"How do political executives deal with bureaucratic sabotage?"
· They simply ignore bureaucratic sabotage - because the damage done can damage executive's aims, diminish his reputation and threaten his circles of confidence.
· They try and root out the leakers and prevent recurrence - How this is extremely time consuming and difficult to actually investigate acts of subversion and pin down blame.

39: Hugh Heclo  “From A Government of Strangers”
by Jassmine Riley, Fall 2013 
 Key Points:
1. The president appoints high-level people to head the executive branch agencies. These people       consist of: 
    a. cabinet secretaries
    b. undersecretaries
    c. assistant secretaries 

2. The rest of the executive branch consists of civil servants who usually remain in government for years and provide continuity. These people are called bureaucrats and are responsible for keeping government programs and organizations with integrity. 

3. In order for American government to function at it's greatest potential, politicians and bureaucrats must be able to interact successfully with each other. However, power is usually fragmented and the President and his staff are not able to control the fragmentation. 

4. There are times when agency officials try to hinder political executives and keep them from executing their plans. The reasons for them doing this range from individuals simply not liking each other to a belief that individuals must protect his or her jurisdiction, program, and budgets.

5. Bureaucratic sabotage known as the “iron triangle,” unites a specific government bureau, the interest group tied to that bureau, and congressional supporters. Their goal may be as simple as individual profiteering or as complex as reforming bureaucrats. Sabotage can take place in subtle forms such as withholding needed information or services. However, a more extensive form of sabotage may be inflicted upon political appointees. There may be positive leaks about these appointees to build credit. However, they will also have to endure negative leaks to damage the credibility of the appointees. 

6. A private interest group may be encouraged to go to an agency's important meetings by an official who doesn’t want to deal directly with Congress. 

7. Political executives can deal with bureaucratic sabotage by:
              a. ignoring it
              b. root out leakers and try to stop recurrence (many disadvantages)
                        1. time consuming 
2. hard to prevent recurrences
3. can hinder positive efforts and leadership initiatives 

 Summary: Political Executives understand that they can not stop sabotage. However, they can lessen it's effect by making outside contacts stronger, increasing their own lines of information and competitive analysis, and coming up with new points of conversation. These executives try to put out their own accounts of divisive encounters to the press and bring in new groups to strengthen the alliance among the triangles. However, one of political executives' most needed qualities to combat sabotage involves their own positive efforts. 

Top of Page

38 Aberbach & Rockman, "In the Web of Politics" [+]
By Jess Skaggs, Fall 2009

1. The Difference between career politicians and career bureaucrats 

• Politicians pass the policy and bureaucrats implement it. 
• Politicians pass laws for what they want without regards of implementation
• Bureaucrats implement the policies passed.
• Politicians are clearly less responsive to policy implementation rather than bureaucrats who carry out the laws passed by politicians.
2. Reasons Politicians are less responsive to policy implementation
• Lack of Clarity
- Politicians do not know exactly what they want or when they want it
- Politicians merely bark out marching orders to bureaucrats that lack clarity on exactly what they want.
- Example: George Bush used orders to his cabinet members like: “ think big”, and “ challenge the system”.
- These orders completely lack the clarity of what President Bush wanted from his cabinet members.
• Problems with Legality
- Politicians occasionally want a policy implemented that stretches the boundaries of Constitutional law.
- Bureaucrats have to answer to the chain of command in hopes that their higher ranking officials are lawfully implementing policy. 
- This also allows bureaucrats leeway in implementing ill-advised policy causing tension between politicians and themselves.
• The Problem of Stability
- Politicians tend to think more in a grandeur state when implementing policy making it difficult for bureaucrats to carry out those policies feasibly. 
- Also politicians implement policy with symbolic meanings instead of when there is an actual problem or dispute.
• The Problem of Institutions
- Political institutions can have different constituents.
- Example: Welfare normally appeals to the lower class. 
- It makes policy implementation extremely difficult when different branches of the government disagree.
- Also it is difficult for bureaucrats to stay neutral when they are democratically controlled.
Top of Page

39: Reich, "Locked in the Cabinet" [+]
by Bobby Miller, Fall 2005
 - Appointed to President Clinton’s cabinet in 1993 to be secretary of labor
 - Discusses three criteria he uses to choose his deputy and chief of staff
 - Describes his packed daily schedule and his desire to explore the building
 - Tells a story about an obscure civil servant’s idea that becomes an important law
February 1, [1993]  - He needs to hire:  Deputy Secretary, Chief of Staff, Small platoon of assistant secretaries
   - One to run Occupational Safety and Health administration
   - One in charge of employment and job training programs
   - One to police nation’s pension funds
   - One to patrol all workplaces to prevent sweatshops
 - The Department of Labor is vast and powerful
- Its mission is to Foster, promote, and develop the welfare of wage earners of the United States, improve their working conditions, and advance their opportunities for profitable employment
- He has no idea what he is doing but doesn’t want to get caught behind the other sub cabinet nominations from the other departments
- Claims no business would operate by choosing 3,000 amateurs with a new president
- Says most work just under two years, long enough to maybe find the bathroom
- Has no idea what he should look for other than:
- Should share the President’s values
- They should be competent and knowledgeable about the policies they’ll administer
- They should be good managers
- He is not sure how he will find out any of this about a person
- He says he is “flying blind.”
February 2
 - Deputy will run the day-to-day operations
 - Chief of Staff will run him, his chief aide in dealing with the world
 - His description of the jobs, “They’ve got to clean up the shit.”
 - The deputy chosen is Tom Glenn
- Used to run a subway system and became vice-president of Brown University
- Described as tough, cunning, disciplined, and doesn’t suffer fools
  - He talks little, but always supplies good answers
  - Is not comfortable around him
  - He used to be a social worker and likes to help people
  - Will be a “hard ass” and keep everyone in line
 - The Chief of Staff chosen is Kitty Higgins
  - Has worked her way up from clerk-typist in the labor department
  - Knows the ins and outs of Washington
  - Laughs easy; Reich thinks she’ll take the edge off of Tom
March 2
 - Is constantly busy and no one is allowed in his office except Tom and Kitty
 - Everywhere he goes he is ushered by someone
 - Three people are hired to run his daily life
 - Only events and letters deemed worthy by Tom and Kitty make it to him.
- This worries him. He sets a list for what he wants so he can view different things
 - With a free hour he escapes to explore
  - Security Guards are sent after him
  - Once found, he is chastised like a child by Kitty
March 14
 - Tom and Kitty suggest a town meeting with the other employees
- Senior members are afraid of what they might say once exposed to microphones
- The career people have been treated “like shit” by Republicans and Democrats
- They feel unappreciated
-  Reich holds the meeting anyways
- Begins with a woman who has a reasonable idea
- Many ideas are reviewed and dismissed or accepted, including one from an old man that he claims would save billions of dollars
August 14
 - He decides the unemployment insurance method is out of date
- Rather than collecting benefits, job losers should prepare for a new job
- He is not sure how to do it
September 20
- Congress demands employment benefits to be extended, but he doesn’t have the money
- By using Steve Wandner’s, the old man’s, new system from the meeting, they can save billions later and use it now
November 24
 - The legislation is signed by the president.
- Reich introduces Steve to the President
- His idea makes it easier for people to find jobs, and Reich is proud of what he has done 
Top of Page

Paul Light, From A Government Ill Executed
by S. Brooke Garrison, Fall 2015

• In Federalist No. 70, Alexander Hamilton said that a government that is ill executed, even if there are good intentions behind it, is still a bad government.

• Although this warning was in reference to the government that was running the new republic, It is still true today. 
In the reading, Paul Light discusses how even now the government seems plagued by bad execution. 
A few examples being: the sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina, miscalculations about the war in Iraq, porous borders, negligent  medical care of veterans, and many more.
• Even though it seems as if Paul Light is bashing the government, he does not believe the government is a failure, he believes the government accomplishes the impossible every day. 
He just believes the government is not executed properly.
• He says his essay is about reversing erosion in the capacity to produce a government well executed
• Now that the baby boomers are starting to leave office, he says there is a unique but brief opportunity available for the nation to reshape the federal hierarchy

7 trends that have been weakening the federal service

1. An Ever-Expanding Mission: 
if it weren't for the never ending list of missions the government (such as guarenteeing voting rights through decent technology and aggressive enforcement, reducing disease through research, Social Security, and Medicare, etc.,) the threat to the federal service would not even be relevant. Government is given no choice but to implement these missions
2. Still Thickening Government: 
the government is creating new titles and expanding the amount of leaders they currently have, which is expanding the governments mission
3. Innocent until Nominated: 
it is taking longer and longer for each new president to appoint his new cabinet members. Also, people are starting to look at being the president or serving on his cabinet as something that could potentially be embarrassing to them or hurt their future careers after their time in the office, so less people are willing to be apart of this.
4. A Deafening Crisis: 
most government employees will say they took their job for pay, instead of the chance to accomplish. Compared to non-profit employees who emphasize the chance to accomplish something worthwhile. Employees often say they are not given the chance to do something challenging. They blame their poor performance on their organizations' lack of willingness to ask enough of their employees. Employees have started to have distrust in the government.
5. The Spirit of Service: 
College graduates do not see the government as a challenging place of work, just a place of pay, benefits, and security. Most do not even consider the government for a future job.
6. The Tides of Reform: 
all federal employees faced one competing reform after another. All these reforms lead to confusion and wasted energy. This leads to priorities out of order.
7. The True Size of Government: 
The size of the government makes it hard to track all of the employees and all of the different projects that they have.

Top of Page

40: James Q. Wilson- Bureaucracy 
Tiffany Holley, 2002

-Private enterprise may be able to do a job more efficiently, but gov't cannot necessarily be criticized for its admitted inefficiency.

-Private enterprise is more efficient than are public bureaucracies. 
-Business is greedy and unless watched like a hawk will fob off shoddy or overpriced goods on the American public. 
-Problem of Accountability- getting agencies to serve agreed-upon goals. 
-Problem of equity- treating all citizens fairly, which usually means treating them alike on the basis of clear rules known in advance.
      -Had to put every part of the job out to bid and to accept the lowest without much 
       regard to the reputation or prior performance of the lowest bidder. 
-Problem of responsiveness- reacting reasonably to the special needs and circumstances of
particular people. 
-Problem of efficiency- obtaining the greatest output for a given level of resources. 
      -The political process can more easily enforce compliance with constraints than the 
       attainment of goals. 
      -Efficiency is a ratio of valued resources used to valued outputs produced. The 
       smaller that ratio the more efficient the production. 
      -The economic definition of efficiency assumes that there is only one valued output.
-Problem of fiscal integrity- assuring that public funds are spent prudently for public purposes. 
      -The law required Parks and Recreation to furnish complete, detailed plans to every 
       contractor bidding on the job. 
-Arbitrary rule refers to officials acting without legal authority, or with that authority in a way that
offends our sense of justice.

-Justice means, first, that we require the gov't to treat people equally on the basis of clear rules
known in advance. 
-Justice obliges the gov't to take into account the special needs and circumstances of individuals. 
-Justice in the fist sense means fairness, in the second responsiveness
-Congressional oversight, judicial review, interest-group participation, media investigations, and
formulized procedures all are intended to check administrative discretion.

-Adding constraints reduces the efficiency with which the main goal of an agency can be attained
but increases the chances that the agency will act in a nonarbitrary manner.

-We want the gov't to be both fair and responsive, but the more rules we impose to insure fairness
the harder we make it for the gov't to be responsive.

-We define claims as rights, impose general rules to insure equal treatment, lament the resulting
inefficiencies, and respond to revelations about responsiveness by adopting new rules intended to
guarantee that special circumstances will be handled with special care.

-Justice inclines us to treat people equally, benevolence to treat them differently; both inclinations
are expressed in rules, though in fact only justice can be.

James Q. Wilson, "Bureaucracy"
Notes by Sean Kent, Fall 2017

Top of Page

Robert Trattner, "2000 Prune Book" [discontinued]
Kevin Akins, 2003

All about importance of FEMA and its head
FEMA handles disasters … both natural & manmade
Since 9/11, FEMA is a division of Homeland Security Department

Most appointees have little to no experience with the Federal Government
In government, much that looks like result really isn’t…public officials may think they  have finished a feat, but another soon emerges.
Also, hard to measure progress, as phone calls, policy papers, etc. are inaccurate
The reasons that bring people to be selected as a presidential appointee should include personal goals & people who need little boost from the position, because personal ambition can get in the way.

Only one time has someone had previous FEMA experience before being appointed head.
Appointee should have insight about what emergency management really is.
FEMA has turned around from a joke organization since 1993, when they had paperwork problems and poor response time. Because of creative leadership and reinvention, they have turned themselves around.
FEMA for its fiscal year of 2001 asked for $971 million in budget and $2.6 billion in emergency contact funds.
Finally, the job of protecting the environment is a huge task, as populations shift, technology enhances, and manmade threats also emerge.
Top of Page

David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, from Reinventing Government.  [discontinued]
(Heather Embry, 2000)

The book tells their plans to making our government responsive to the needs of Americans.
The two purposes of the book: 

1. To show a snapshot of governments that have begun this journey;
2. To provide a map for those who want to come along
The Five Underlying Beliefs that drove Osborne and Gaebler to write Reinventing Government:
1. They believe deeply in government.
2. They believe that civilized society cannot function effectively without effective government.
3. They believe the people who work in government are not the problem-the systems in which they work are the problem.
4. They believe that neither traditional liberalism nor traditional conservatism has much relevance to the problems our governments face today.
5. They believe deeply in equity-equal opportunity for all Americans.
Entrepreneurial government is the term they used to describe the new model they see emerging across America.

They discuss the ten principles that are the fundamental principles behind this new emerging form of government. (See page 288.)

They feel that our leaders are wrapped up in old ways of looking at our problems. The authors feel that we should not so much develop new ideas, but escape the old ones. We should be more concerned with what kind of government we have, not how much government we have.

Top of Page