Political Science at Huntingdon College
Huntingdon College | Political Science | Courses | PSC 212: American Policymaking System |
PSC 307: Public Policy Analysis

Lecture Notes

by Jeremy Lewis, revised 21 Apr. 2010

Types of Policy | Models of Policymaking | Health Care Reform 2010 | US Education | Taxes |
Kingdon's Policy Streams & Windows | Chap. 4: Processes

Types of Policy
Policy = a stable, purposive course of action followed by an actor dealing with a problem.
[does include inaction and sets of actors]

Mostly formulated by various "authorities" in a system, usually for a purpose or goal (even if ambiguous)
Actions include subsequent enforcement actions
Policies emerge in response to demands
Policy statements are formal expressions, but these from different bodies may conflict
Staements do not become policy unless attempts made to implement them
outputs (laws, taxes, miles of highway built, aid delivered abroad) are not outcomes (effect on society)
Policy can be positive or negative, action or inaction (so long as a decision made)
Congress passes 4,500 laws per 2 years, but most are minor issues.
Types of policy:

Constituent, distributive, regulatory, self-regulatory, redistibutive
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Models of Policymaking

Models of Policymaking - used to simplify, identify certain aspects, understand and explain policies [explain causes]
These models often seem abstract to undergrads -- but are the stock in trade of postgrad students.

A. Institutional Model

B. Process Model C. Group Theory [Pluralism] D. Elite Theory E. Rational [Comprehensive]Model F. Incrementalism G. Game Theory H. Public Choice I. Systems Theory How to Tell if the Models are Helping. Do They:
  1. Order and simplify reality -- must select most powerful causes
  2. Identify what is significant
  3. Congruent with reality -- has Kingdon found more realistic model than these in Dye?
  4. Provide meaningful communication -- give us language to agree on even when we disagree on policy?
  5. Direct inquiry and research -- not divert it into fitting the case into the model
  6. Suggest explanations
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Provisions of US health care reform act, March 2010
notes by Jeremy Lewis, 1 Apr. '10


Procedure Party support Presidential support Provisions
  • Plan is strong on covering more people, but weak on cost controls (health care industry did not block the Act)
  • Plan is phased in over six years, beginning with rules on private insurance (Sep. '10) and
  • gradually ramping up insurance purchase mandate, insurance exchange and other public functions (2014), with
  • full cost controls & watchdog by 2018.
  • (Congress may alter the later steps before they happen)
  • No public option created
  • individuals mandated to buy insurance
  • fines small at first, then increasing
  • this would reduce future cost of federal emergency rooms that treat the uninsured
  • Insurance pool and market created to increase competition
  • New state-based insurance exchange will begin operating in 2014
  • Approximately 30 million of the 47 million uninsured will be covered
  • tax credits offered
  • subsidies for small businesses to buy insurance
  • A tax on "cadillac" health care plans (welcomed by economists, but diluted and delayed)
  • Patients can keep existing insurance and doctors
  • CBO estimates plan will reduce inflation of premiums
  • Restrictions on insurance company practices (Sep. 2010):
  • an end to lifetime caps on benefits
  • an end to declining patients on grounds of pre-existing conditions
  • children can stay on parents' insurance until age 26
  • even if own employer offers a plan
  • even if married
  • language on benefits must be clear and simple (like credit reporting)
  • forms will be standardized to reduce confusion
  • Restrictions on premium and cost increases, Jan. 2011:
  • limits on company overhead costs (25% of individual premiums, 20% of group premiums).
  • at least 3/4 of premiums to be spent on patient care, not on profits and overhead -- 80 percent in the  group market and 75 percent in the individual market
  • (excess overhead could result in rebate to patients)
  • increases in premiums must be declared publicly
  • companies with excessive increases will be barred from new exchange, 2014
  • full provisions and watchdog agency by 2018
  • Will cost be reduced compared to curve without reform?
  • CBO: extra cost to Feds $940 B over decade
  • $400 B in subsidies
  • $500 B in Medicaid
  • but over 2 decades, federal deficit will be cut in half
  • BUT -- assumes medical profession will accept cuts in Medicare and doctor's reimbursements
  • RAND corp: no, overall US spending on health care would increase by 2% by 2020
  • employer schemes will expand to 6 M more patients
  • premiums to drop about 2%
  • CATO institute: Romney's MA health plan may have crowded out private sector and reduced youth entering state; premiums have risen
  • insurance companies did not oppose bill with massive advertising: a sign they expect 32M more mandated customers.
  • Paul Krugman: always a tunnel at the end of the tunnel (more lobbying to come)
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    Concepts of Tax Policy

    Types of taxes

    Tax Rates diagram

    Pluralism in Congressional donations -- does it affect US tax rates?
    top campaign donor interest groups in US, seeking tax breaks in some cases

  • but: 1986 tax reform
  • eliminated loopholes, broadened base and lowered rates
  • lasted for a year before pluralism reasserted

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    Why do policies make agenda?
    Kingdon's 3 streams:
    • info
    • indicators
    • crises
    • feedback
    • media
    • government
    • administration
    • studies
    • primeval soup
    • survival
    • communities of experts
    • ideas evolve
    • feasible?
    • cost?
    • values?
    (independent stream)
    • public mood
    • group pressure
    • congress
    • presidency
    • campaigns
    • elections
    • advocates >>
    • crises >>
    • feedback >>
  • >> WINDOW for entrepreneurs 
  • to join streams
  • briefly open


    >> spillovers to other policies
    >> e.g. deregulation to other sectors


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    John Kingdon, Chapter 4:
    Processes: Origins, Rationality, Incrementalism, and Garbage Cans
    by Jeremy Lewis

    I. Origins

  • Public policy derived from multiple actors
  • Prominent factor is not source of policy ideas, but climate in government or receptivity
  • Nobody Leads Anybody Else: policies roam around institutions
  • Comprehensive, Rational Decision Making Model
  • Does not accurately describe reality
  • However, it is as rational and orderly as humans can make them
  • Incrementalism Garbage Can Model
  • Organized anarchies have 3 properties:
    1. Four Streams Running through organized anarchies
    A choice opportunity is a "garbage can into which various kinds of problems and solutions are dumped by participants as they are generated" F. Revised Model
    1. Three Processes of Federal Government Agenda Setting: problems, policies, and politics
    1. Three Major Streams in Federal Government

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