General Public Policy in the US

Why study public policy?

The study of public policy is elementary for several reasons. One of the main reasons for studying public policy is for scientific or academic reasons (Cochran, Meyer, & Cayer, 2006). Scholars and scientists in research institutions and universities study public policy as a means of satisfying their scientific interests in the field. Scholars in these institutions are interested in building knowledge of the processes followed in public policy (Cochran et al., 2006). The study of public policy also contributes to the problem-solving aspect, where individuals offer solutions to some of the problems existing in the country’s policy environment. According to Cochran et al. (2006), studying public policy also generates recommendations for institutions that are involved in developing and applying policies. The recommendations are recognized as they increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the public policy systems.

Government Spending

Government spending is an accurate measure and indicator of priorities in any country. If a country considers any sector such as the health sector to be a priority, then the funds channelled to the sector should reflect the prioritization. According to Lawrence, Stoker, and Wolman (2013), an analysis of government can provide useful information on the priorities in that country. For example, the American government has security and health as priorities, and this aspect is deduced from the government’s spending over the past years (Lawrence, Stoker, & Wolman, 2013). The government spends on the military in the provision of security to its citizens, intelligence, and counterterrorism and these are considered priorities, hence the increased spending in the security. Government spending is thus an appropriate indicator of priorities.

Considerations of a Model to Analyze a Policy

The choice of the model to use in the analysis of a given policy is influenced by a number of considerations. The type of policy to be analyzed is one of the most significant factors used in determining the model to be used. Different models are applied in special policy areas with examples being health, infrastructure and transport, crime, and education sectors. The other factor is the individuals that are involved in the formulation of policies and their implementation, as they are key stakeholders in the process (Birkland, 2010). The analysis of a policy is also dependent on the existing environment in an area, which means that different models may be used for similar policies in a different region. The consideration of a model to be applied in the analysis of policies also includes the political environment in the country.

Stage with greatest Media Control

The media is an important tool in policy development, and it has influence in all the stages of policy development. The media influences public opinion through enlightening people on the necessary changes, the changes being implemented in policy, and the likely results (Dye, 2013). The stage that the media has the greatest influence on the development and adoption of policies is the policy adoption stage. At this stage, the media analyzes the developed policy, its likely impact on society, and the outcomes of its implementation, coupled with how it will affect everyone. Proponents and opponents of the policy being formulated using the media to influence the adoption of the new policy (Dye, 2013). The success of this stage depends on how well the policy is accepted by the media and the influence that it has on the public.

Use of Funds by the Federal Government

The federal government has the power to push the local and state governments in the process of [policy formulation and adoption. The federal government is the main source of funds for the state and local government, and it allocates the revenues as legally required. However, several factors influence the distribution of financial resources to these states and local governments. The first factor is the support for local industries in a state or area (Cochran et al., 2006). The government provides funding to an area that is important to a state, and this aspect exerts influence on this state. The second factor is the provision of financial incentives for the state that it intends to influence (Cochran et al., 2006). The federal government has numerous resources at its disposal, which it uses to influence the state functions and activities. By injecting finances into an area of the state, the federal government encourages growth in that sector, hence promoting the general growth of the state’s economy.

The third factor that the federal government uses is the provision of the legislation that is deemed financially acceptable for a state or other local government (Cochran et al., 2006). The legislation could increase funding to the state or local government or increase the tax regimes in the area. The federal government also uses special control in terms of oversight to ensure that the state and local governments are adequately spending their financial resources (Cochran et al., 2006). This oversight influences how governments spend their financial resources. The last factor is the direct control of financial decisions in each of these governments. The federal government has special ways of determining the financial decisions of the state and local governments.

Public Policy Issues Questions

Gun Control in the United States

Gun control in the United States is an important contemporary policy area due to the frequent incidences of shootings in the country. The issue of gun control in the United States has dominated the media, and several points are of concern to the individuals in this debate. The first point that is used to argue in the debate is the constitution, which protects the rights of citizens (O’Brien, Forrest, Lynott, & Daly, 2013). The opponents of gun control state that the second amendment of the US constitution gives the citizens the right to carry guns as a form of protection (O’Brien et al., 2013). Such individuals state that the need for guns is to provide adequate protection for the liberties that they enjoy. Guns were also intended to protect people from invaders or oppression from their own government (O’Brien et al., 2013).

The other point in the debate is that nobody in the country should wield a gun except the authorities that are charged with the mandate to offer protection to the citizens (O’Brien et al., 2013). The proponents of gun control hold this view, and they state that guns in the wrong hands are the main cause of crime incidents observed in the country in recent times. The other point in the debate on gun control is the need for self-defence by the citizens (O’Brien et al., 2013). With the frequent incidences of crime in the country and especially in some areas, the people opposing gun control state that guns are important for protection from these incidents.

Despite the need for self-defence, the other factor in the debate on gun control is the level of crime in the country (O’Brien et al., 2013). Analysts state that the level of crime in the United States is increasing and especially in particular neighbourhoods. The debate on gun control has thus incorporated the government’s efforts in the prevention of crime. The fifth point in the debate on gun control is the racial and ethnic direction that the existing gun policy is associated with (O’Brien et al., 2013). According to O’Brien et al. (2013), many guns are in the wrong hands in the United States, and several incidences of racially inclined shootings have been reported.

The sixth point in the debate on gun control is the financial implications of any policy intended to control guns. The arms industry is an important one in the United States, and many individuals are dependent on this industry for their daily bread. Though the country earns a lot of money from the sale of arms to other parts of the world, the local arms economy is also a significant source of revenue (O’Brien et al., 2013). The institution of gun control would mean losses in revenue for the country. These points have been used in the debate on gun control with different people taking opposing sides.

Problem of Poverty

Poverty is a significant policy problem in the United States, and it attracts several issues in its assessment. The first issue is the racial and ethnic associations of poverty in the country. Poverty is considered a preserve of some races in this country, which poses a problem in poverty assessment (Albelda, 2011). The second issue in poverty assessment is the geographic distribution of the problem where some areas are affected more as compared to others. The third issue is the government’s policies that are in place to address the levels of poverty in the country. Some of the policies are considered as deterrents to the eradication of poverty in the country. The issue in the assessment of poverty is the issue of gender. The differentiation of the different levels of poverty for different genders is an important issue. Another issue regarding the assessment of poverty in the US is economic performance. Assessment of poverty levels in the US is made against general economic performance.

Main Goals and Weaknesses of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

The key aims of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act include the increase in quality of healthcare for the public. This law was enacted with the intention of lowering the prices of essential healthcare services for US citizens, hence making them affordable (MacKinnon, 2013). The other goal of the act was to increase the quality of healthcare in the country (MacKinnon, 2013). For a long period, the healthcare industry in the US has continued to underperform, and this legislation is seen as the main answer to the question of poor healthcare provision.

The other goal of the act is to increase the number of individuals who have access to insurance coverage. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has the goal of reducing the amount of government spending on healthcare since this aspect is seen as a hindrance to the economic development of the country. It also aims to reduce the individual spending on healthcare, since the American families spend a significant proportion of their income on healthcare.

The main weakness of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the financial implications that it attracts. The high drug costs will be a hindrance to the application of this policy in the United States (MacKinnon, 2013). Another weakness is the projected shortage of health professionals required to implement the policy. The act will lead to increased visits to the primary health physicians as the population ages. The number of these physicians is not increasing as per the requirements in the act. These weaknesses are likely to affect the implementation of the policy.

No Child Left Behind Act

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has influenced the relationship between the federal government and the states in the US. The act expands the role of the local and state governments in the provision of education, and it ensures that the states take additional responsibilities in matters of education (Aske, Connolly, & Corman, 2013). The NCLB has increased the role of the state and local authorities in public education with the states and local authorities being expected to provide education in these environments. The second characteristic of the act is that it requires the states to implement a test-based accountability system, which was initially the responsibility of the federal government (Aske, Connolly, & Corman, 2013).

State governments are required to increase funding to the public education sector (Aske, Connolly, &Corman, 2013). This move is likely to affect compliance with the act, as states have different financial capacities. The other effect that the NCLB will have on the interaction between the federal and state governments is in terms of commitment to the provision of public education. The shortfall in funds required to implement the NCLB policy at the state level is likely to affect the commitment of the states in the provision of this form of education. The fourth effect is the erosion of political support for the federal government, where the state governments withdraw support for the policy on education. Though the federal government is responsible for the provision of policies regarding public education, the NCLB Act is likely to affect the local priorities in different states. This aspect may result in decreased support and eventual failure for the NCLB. The fifth effect of NCLB policy on the role of the two levels of government is that the federal government will have an increased role to play in public education, which means more funding and commitment for the federal government.

Standard Measures of Country Economic Health

The main measures of economic performance in a country include the unemployment rate, the growth in GDP, inflation, and the exchange rate (Easterlin, 2013). Unemployment can be used as an accurate measure of economic performance. When the unemployment rate is high, the economy is said to be performing poorly, while the reverse is true (Easterlin, 2013). The comparison of a country’s currency to the performance of another (exchange rate) is another indicator of economic performance (Easterlin, 2013). A better performing economy has a strong currency as compared to other economies. The exchange rate is an accurate measure of economic performance, but the main weakness is that different countries face different economic conditions. Comparison of the currencies can thus be misleading.

The other macro-economic factor indicating economic performance is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP is the value of services and goods produced in the US in a single year and this measure is an effective indicator of the health of the economy. Inflation indicates the changes in prices of commodities in a country and it reflects the general economic performance (Easterlin, 2013). The main weakness in the use of inflation is the different measures that are required for its calculation. A comparison between the GDP and the unemployment rate indicates that the GDP is a more accurate measure of economic performance because it takes into consideration a number of economic factors. The weakness of GDP as an economic measure is that it is involving and it requires knowledge on the economy. The use of unemployment is also weak, as it does not offer specific areas that are underperforming in the economy (Easterlin, 2013).

Immigration Policy Issues

The formulation of an immigration policy requires consideration of several factors and different policy options relate to these factors. One of the factors important in the formation of an immigration policy is the economic performance (Frederking, 2012). The economic effects of the policy should be evaluated in the process of policy formation. A policy facilitating immigration is necessary to provide labor for economic improvement. The second factor is the availability of skill in the country. An immigration policy should offer skills to the relevant areas of the economy and favor individuals with the requisite skills. The third factor of consideration is security (Frederking, 2012). In a nation with rampant insecurity, the immigration policy developed should be constructed in a way that ensures increased security for the nation.

Another factor important to consider is the population characteristics. For an aging population with a low fertility and growth rates, the policy should facilitate immigration into the nation (Frederking, 2012). The fifth factor important to consider in the formation of an immigration policy is the economic performance of the country. A facilitative immigration policy is necessary for a nation that has a strong economic performance (Frederking, 2012). This type of policy ensures that the economic performance is sustained.

The sixth factor considered in the formation of an immigration policy is the border control and security present (Frederking, 2012). Nations are only able to control influx of people into their territory if they have adequate border control. For nations like the US, this aspect is a significant factor in the formation of an immigration policy. The seventh factor to consider is the welfare benefits program in place (Frederking, 2012). The welfare benefits program for immigrants poses a challenge for the policy makers, as the policy option is to have a policy that reduces immigration into a nation.

The other important factor to consider in immigration policy formation is the public opinions regarding the existing immigration policies (Frederking, 2012). If the opinions are not positive, then the policymakers should evaluate this aspect and make an appropriate policy. The appropriate policy option is mainly a reduction in the level of immigration. The last factor is the availability of labor in the country (Frederking, 2012). For nations that have a limited population and a developing economy, the policy option that they have is to develop an immigration policy that facilitates increased immigration into the nation.

Energy Policy

The energy sector is one of the most important spheres to the United States and a number of policies guide the performance of this industry (Sita & Haidar, 2013). The main approaches to energy policy in the United States can be classified in terms of energy consumption, energy supply, fuel efficiency, and the energy projections

In energy consumption, policy makers have to ensure that energy consumption in the country reflects the available energy resources (Sita &Haidar, 2013). The energy policy delineates the level of consumption of energy in the US. The policy also determines the level of consumption that the country should hold. The approach of energy consumption in policy formulation allows policymakers to use energy consumption in the estimation of energy that is required.

Energy supply is a better approach in the formation of energy policy, as policymakers are in a position to plan for the use of available energy resources and apply this knowledge in their planning for energy consumption (Sita &Haidar, 2013). Energy supply is also considered in policy implementation where policies are applied based on the available energy resources. The fourth policy approach is the fuel efficiency that a nation can achieve. There is a wide use of this approach to energy policy in the United States with the government estimating fuel efficiency in the different areas of the economy. Fuel efficiency determines the amount of resources that go into the energy sector and how they are used.

The last approach to the energy policy in the US and any nation is the projections that are made in the respective area. Policy makers should use trends that have been observed in the consumption supply and efficiency of fuel to make projections for the future. Projections in this sector ensure that the economy is prepared of any changes that may be experienced in the energy sector coupled with allowing for the provision of the guarantee of increased output in the energy sector (Sita &Haidar, 2013). These considerations should ensure that the policies developed in the energy sector are appropriate.

References

Albelda, R. (2011). Time Binds: US Antipoverty Policies, Poverty, and the Well-Being of Single Mothers. Feminist Economics, 17(4), 189-214.

Aske, R., Connolly, S., & Corman, R. (2013). Accessibility or accountability? The rhetoric and reality of no child left behind. Journal of Economics & Economic Education Research, 14(3), 107-118.

Birkland, T. (2010). An Introduction to the Policy Process: Theories, Concepts, and Models of Public Policy Making. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.

Cochran, C., Mayer, L., & Cayer, J. (2006). American Public Policy: An Introduction. Wadsworth, OH: Cengage Learning.

Dye, T. (2013). Understanding public policy. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Easterlin, R. (2013). Happiness, Growth, and public policy. Economic Inquiry, 51(1), 1-15.

Frederking, L. (2012). A comparative study of framing immigration policy after 11 September 2001. Policy Studies, 33(4), 283-296.

Lawrence, E., Stoker, R., & Wolman, H. (2013).The Effects of Beneficiary Targeting on Public Support for Social Policies. Policy Studies Journal, 41(2), 199-216.

MacKinnon, E. (2013). Recognizing pharmacists as healthcare providers-a solution for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act roll-out. Formulary, 48(9), 300-302.

O’Brien, K., Forrest, W., Lynott, D., & Daly, M. (2013). Racism, Gun Ownership and Gun Control: Biased Attitudes in US Whites May Influence Policy Decisions. Plos ONE, 8(10), 1-10.

Sita, B., &Haidar, R. (2013). US energy policies and variance in the GCC stock markets. OPEC Energy Review, 37(1), 53-62.