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Political Science Process Essay

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Submitted By mzmoo77
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Before taking PLSC 112 this summer, my knowledge and views of the American government and politics were very limited. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I have always been a little ignorant when it came to knowledge about the government or political issues, but have always wished that I knew more, especially with the economic problems we are facing today. I never really did form many political opinions, one way or the other. I vote every election, but never really understand the bigger picture at hand. Such as, all the issues that a candidate stands for or the impact of proposals on the government. When people around me have conversations about American politics, I am embarrassed that I either do not understand what they are saying, or cannot add to the conversation because I don’t know what to say. I guess you could say that I have always been a little cynical when it came to politics. Part of this reason is because I have always felt that the political game played in American politics was just a bunch of people talking baloney, making empty promises, trash talking their opponents, and trying to persuade people to think their way. And whoever does this the best wins, end of story. I’ve always known that there was more to American politics that this, but never really tried to find out more. So, when I signed up for this class, I wanted to shed my ignorance and learn more about my government and how it operated. I am proud to say that my knowledge of our government has been expanded to the point where I am fully capable of understanding the full context of our government its political system and understand why our government operates the way it does. I now feel that when speaking on American politics, I can now understand what is being said and now I can add something to the conversation. In PLSC 112 this summer, we learned about the policy making process within our government. The policy making process is important to our government because this is how we address and solve political issues within the government. Within our government, the social and political well being of our society is important for us to maintain our democracy. When problems arise that affect our social and political well being they must be addressed and taken care of. This is where the policy making process comes into play. When an issue arises, first, it must be identified as a problem. Any group, including the media, interest groups, the public, and politicians can identify an issue as a political problem. The second, and most important part of the policy making process is the agenda stage. After an issue has been identified, usually by an event, or series of events, it is brought to the attention of Congress and put on their political agenda, to be addressed and resolved by government action. Agenda setting is important to the policy making process because this is where an issue is evaluated and receives policy formulation, adoption, evaluation, and hopefully becomes law. Congress, the president, interest groups, and other administrative agencies come together to formulate and adopt specific plans for addressing and reaching a resolve of the pressing political issue. However, not all issues brought before Congress end up being addressed, some die on the Congress floor when an agreement over policy cannot be achieved. During the agenda stage, it is important for an issue to stay on the political agenda, or no action will be taken. Some factors that help an issue stay on the agenda are having good political policy entrepreneurs. With good policy entrepreneurs, there is much more attention being brought to the issue, which can help it stay on the agenda. Political policy entrepreneurs are individuals and groups who focus public and political attention on the specific issue at hand and propose solutions. They also help to unite people and open windows for the policy agenda of the issue. They are also willing to extend their time to find resources in pursuit of policy goals to help with the political process.
Three critical political policy entrepreneurs such as the president, interest groups, and the media are key policy entrepreneurs for helping to keep an issue on the agenda as well. The president is a good policy entrepreneur because his job is to persuade and influence public opinion. So, if a president supports and issue on the agenda he has more power to persuade people to support that agenda policy. Interest groups are good policy entrepreneurs because they can monitor the process of the agenda in Congress and help shape public opinion by, lobbying, mobilizing constituents, hosting demonstrations, and issuing ads. Interest groups can also go to court and give their expert opinions. Many members of interest groups are experts in the area of whatever political agenda is at hand. So, when Congress holds hearings on issues on its political agenda they can call in members of interest groups to give their expert opinions. The media is also an important political policy entrepreneur because it gives high priority to issues at hand and plays a huge role in shaping public opinion by suggesting what the public should or should not think about particular issues.
Congress however, has a slightly different role in the policy making process. While the president, interest groups and the media are most likely to campaign for their causes openly, Congress is more likely to be more bipartisan. The role of Congress in the decision making process is more reactive than proactive. The role of Congress is to put out the fire and address current problems, as opposed to trying to foresee and prevent larger problems in the future.
There are three characteristics of the type of policy that Congress is likely to produce, they are: vague, incremental, or no decision. Those policies that are vague usually offer no clear-cut definitions on how to implement policy. This type of policy usually leaves questions as to how to define and implement such decisions, which are usually left up to the Bureaucracy. The second characteristic of Congressional policies is incremental. With incremental policies, Congress takes small baby steps, rather than large, grand steps. An incremental decision made by Congress does not create life-altering changes. Congress does not want to make changes that are politically risky, as many in Congress seek re-election. So, Congress will stay on the fence and avoid making too many people angry or happy. The third and final characteristic is no decision. With this decision just like vague decision policies, Congress defers to the Bureaucracy to handle any decisions that need to be made.
Most congressional policies have these characteristics because Congress is hampered with so many issues and checks within it’s own branch and the political system, president (veto) and the courts (judicial review), that it is often difficult for it to deal with an issue head on. The president and the courts play a significant role in the decision making stage of the policy process because they have the right to check Congress on their law making process. The president has the administrative power to veto legislation from Congress, which can limit or increase the effectiveness of laws created by Congress. While the president has administrative power over Congress, the courts mainly the Supreme Court, has the power of judicial review over Congress. The courts have the power to overturn any legislation created by Congress. The courts have the power of statutory interpretation, which means that the courts can interpret laws to give them more power, take away power, or alter their meaning. With these checks Congress may find it too difficult to address many issues without using such characteristics as vague, incremental, and no decision within their decision making process.
Political parties and interest groups can influence the decision-making process because both groups have an enormous influence on Congress. Interest groups work closely with members of Congress by providing legislators and public officials with specialized and detailed information that might be difficult to obtain. Interest groups can also help raise public awareness and inspire action on various issues that a specific Congress member may be trying to advocate. Also, when many Congress members are running for re-election they can count on interest groups to lobby their causes, and help shape constituents public opinion about them (Congressmen). Political parties also have great influence over decisions made by congress because many members of Congress have strict loyalty to their parties, and aside from their own personal views, many lawmakers side with the majority view of their political parties. With so many players in the decision making process, with their own agendas, and interests trying to work together, you realize what a complex system policy making really is.
Before a policy can become law it must be implemented and evaluated. Policy implementation involves the cooperation of the federal government, state and local governments. Policy implementation requires that the proposed policy to be certified, or approved by the federal government and supported by groups outside the government. Policy evaluation is the final stage in the policymaking process. This involves evaluating the proposed policy and its success of federal support during the implementation process. Once a policy passes the implementation policy; groups both inside and outside the government evaluate it. Congress usually holds hearings to obtain feedback from both groups to determine the success or failure of the proposed policy.
Both the implementation and impact analysis can be difficult because there are so many players involved in both processes. With both the implementation and impact analysis you have the federal government, various state and local governments, various groups inside and outside the government, executive branch, and the courts. Each of these sectors are involved in how the new policy will be implemented, interpreted, and applied. The role of the executive branch and the bureaucracy play a significant role in the implementation process. The executive branch, through its many agencies (the bureaucracy) enforces the new policy set forth by Congress. The agencies in the executive branch implement the policy, and have the ability to fill in the blanks of the vague laws created by Congress. Federalism can also complicate the implementation and policy process because their approval is needed for a policy to become law, and without their approval a policy cannot become law.
With the complicated and political policy process that has been set up by the founders of the Constitution and the existence of extra-constitutional actors, such as the executive branch, bureaucracy, and interest groups. I believe that the framers created a government that is both too fractured, and too slow, but I can see why they did so. By drawing on a current policy, such as the budget, I believe that if the framers had created a more structured government, issues like the budget might be handled in a timelier, more effective manner. With so many different players at the table with their own agendas and interests, it makes it very difficult to pass legislation. Especially, when you have a president from one political party and a Congressional house with the majority, from another political party, like we do now. This makes it very hard to pass legislation in a timely, effective manner. However, I can see why the framers created our government the way that they did. Limited government was important to the framers at the time, and they believed that the powers of the government should be limited, and the people should maintain control. So, they created a Constitution that was both relatively ineffective and inefficient. I think that the framers wanted to leave interpretations up to the government, so they would not be seen as the ones (framers) to give governmental power to the different branches. Also, I think that the framers did not know what the future would hold for society in general, so that was another reason why they designed our government on such a vague template.
In closing, during PLSC 112 I learn a lot about my government, and it’s political system and our policy making process. My point of view concerning our government has changed slightly because I now understand how the government works on all levels, and I now understand why and how policy is implemented into our government, and the roles each branch of government play in that process. My view of our government based on its constitutional and extra constitutional components has not really changed that much, I think that the process is very complicated. With all the players involved and all the different political agendas it can sometimes make implementing policies, especially a much-needed policy very hard. After taking PLSC 112, I would say that I am still a little cynical of our government. I still think that it is a bunch of people talking a bunch of baloney and making empty promises, but I am now much more informed as to the inner workings of our government. There really isn’t much that I would change about our government, except for all the fighting; it isn’t needed, not in government.

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