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POLSC231: Introduction to American Politics

Unit 5: Making Policy in the American Political System   After exploring the foundations, political behavior, and institutions of the American political system, this final unit looks at public policy in the United States, the place where all of these other components of the American political system intersect. The unit will begin by examining the general policy-making process and how each branch of government impacts American public policy. Then, we will take a deeper look into the three major realms of public policy – economic, social, and foreign affairs policy. In each of these realms, we will discuss theories of policy and then look closer at how policy has been implemented over time. This unit is a fitting way to end the course by demonstrating how everything that we’ve learned thus far comes together to shape the various public policies that impact American society as a whole.

Unit 5 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take approximately 25.5 hours.
 
☐    Subunit 5.1: 3.75 hours
 
☐    Subunit 5.2: 5.75 hours
 

☐    Subunit 5.2.1: 0.5 hours

 

☐    Subunit 5.2.2: 2.5 hours

 

☐    Subunit 5.2.3: 2.75 hours

 

☐    Subunit 5.3: 6 hours
 

☐    Subunit 5.3.1: 1.5 hours

 

☐    Subunit 5.3.2: 0.5 hours

 

☐    Subunit 5.3.3: 1.25 hours

 

☐    Subunit 5.3.4: 1.75 hours
 
☐    Subunit 5.3.5: 1 hour

 
☐    Subunit 5.4: 7.5 hours
 

☐    Subunit 5.4.1: 1.25 hours

 

☐    Subunit 5.4.2: 2.25 hours

 

☐    Subunit 5.4.3: 0.25 hours
 

☐    Unit 5 Current Events Challenge: 1.5 hours
 
☐    Unit 5 Assessment: 1 hour

Unit5 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - discuss the role that policy making plays in the American political system; - define the major stages of the public policy-making process; - discuss the major theories of US economic and monetary policy; - describe the federal budgetary process, and identify its key stakeholders; - explain the congressional appropriations process; - assess the successes and failures of American taxing and spending policies; - trace the history and development of American domestic policy, including welfare, education, Social Security, and Medicare; - explain how regulatory policy works as a major activity of government; - discuss the historical evolution of US foreign and national security policy; - identify the key roles played by the president and Congress in creating foreign policy; and - discuss the impact of globalization on US economic and foreign policy.

5.1 Policy Making   - Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Policy” Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Policy” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Public Policy I” and “Public Policy II” below.
 
Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Policy I” and “Public Policy II” Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Policy I” (YouTube) and “Public Policy II” (YouTube)
     
    Also available in:
    iTunes U (Lecture 24 and 25)
     
    Instructions: Watch these lectures to gain some general understanding of important terms and concepts for this subunit; these lectures will cover material you will need ot know for the first three subunits of this unit. In any society, governmental entities enact laws, make policies, and allocate resources. This is true at all levels. Public policy can be generally defined as a system of laws, regulatory measures, courses of action, and funding priorities concerning a given topic promulgated by a governmental entity or its representatives. Individuals and groups often attempt to shape public policy through education, advocacy, or mobilization of interest groups. Shaping public policy is obviously different in Western-style democracies than in other forms of government, but it is reasonable to assume that the process always involves efforts by competing interest groups to influence policy makers in their favor.
     
    Watching these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott, and the original version can be found here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 16: Policymaking and Domestic Policies” Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 16: Policymaking and Domestic Policies” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read Chapter 16 on pages 679-725. When government decides to act, it mostly does so through public policy, which is a specific course of action that government takes to address a problem, such as the federal budget deficit. A public policy can be conveyed to the public in the laws passed by Congress and signed by the president, opinions issued by the Supreme Court, and/or rules written by the executive branch. But whatever form it takes, a public policy tells the public who is about to get what, when, and how, from government. Though the authors of the text seem to applaud the Obama Administration on economic policy, the discussion and concepts discussed in the chapter provide you with the tools and constructs to critically evaluate whether you agree with the arguments and claims regarding the Obama Administration’s economic policies advanced in the text.
     
    Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 5.1 − Quickfire Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 5.1 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
     
    Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

5.2 Economic Policy   “Economic policy” refers to the actions that governments take in order to influence the economy. In recent years, credit, mortgage, and regulatory policies have contributed to an economic crisis in the United States. Responding to the economic crisis, the government has become more involved in managing the economy than ever before. Monetary policy is mainly determined by the Federal Reserve Board. Fiscal policy is mainly made by the president’s economic advisors and Congress.

5.2.1 Theories of Economic Policy   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Theories of US Economic Policy” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Theories of US Economic Policy” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read this selection. Differences of opinion on how government power should be used are usually based on competing philosophies about how much government should be involved in regulating the economy.
 
Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

5.2.2 The Budget   - Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 23 – The Budget” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 23 – The Budget” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this three-part presentation to learn more about the budgetary process in American government. Deciding the federal budget is a complicated and often contentious process involving the president and Congress.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Lecture: YouTube: New America Foundation: “After the Super Committee: Is Budget Process Reform Part of the Answer?” Link: YouTube: New America Foundation: “After the Super Committee: Is Budget Process Reform Part of the Answer?” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch this video, which discusses the difficulty of the budget process in the United States' highly polarized political culture.
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. It is attributed to the New America Foundation, and the original version can be found here.

5.2.3 Government Actions: Taxing and Spending   Tax collecting is one of the oldest activities of government. Today, the federal government gets most of its funds from payroll taxes (for Social Security and Medicare), personal and corporate income taxes, admission fees to federal parks, import taxes, fines, and revenue from the sale of federal products. Much of the federal government’s revenue is spent on benefit payments to individuals – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other major social programs – and national defense. However, there are wide philosophical disagreements among elected officials and the general public on what the government should tax and pay for, and how much.

  • Reading: Congressional Research Service: Jessica Tollestrup’s “The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction” Link: Congressional Research Service: Jessica Tollestrup’s “The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read this report, which provides a comprehensive overview on the roles of Congress and the president in developing the yearly federal budget.
     
    Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Web Media: YouTube: Khan Academy’s “Government’s Financial Condition” Link: YouTube: Khan Academy’s “Government’s Financial Condition” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch this video, which discusses the difference between US debt and operating costs and how the government’s large financial obligations (i.e. entitlement spending) can create burgeoning deficits.
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to the Khan Academy, and the original version can be found here.

  • Web Media: YouTube: Khan Academy’s “Deficit and Debt Ceiling” Link: YouTube: Khan Academy’s “Deficit and Debt Ceiling” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch this video, which provides an overview on the basics of the federal deficit, debt, and the debt ceiling.
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. It is attributed to the Khan Academy, and the original version can be found here.

  • Mobile App: Peter Kazazes’ *American Debt Clock* Link: Peter Kazazes’ American Debt Clock (iOS app)
     
    Instructions: Open this above app, which will help you to visualize the national debt in real time and with up-to-date statistics. Feel free to view and/or post a comment(s) in the “Join the Discussion” section. Please note that the comments do not necessarily reflect the views of The Saylor Foundation.
     
    Reading through this app should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 5.2.3 − Quickfire Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 5.2.3 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
     
    Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

5.3 Domestic Policy   5.3.1 History and Development of American Social Public Policy   - Reading: Social Security Administration: “Historical Background and Development of Social Security” Link: Social Security Administration: “Historical Background and Development of Social Security” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read this overview of the development of social public policy in the United States. Pay close attention to where and why it began (the Great Depression) and how it has changed and been reformed over time.
 
Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

5.3.2 Social Security: America’s Greatest Social Public Policy   - Web Media: YouTube: Khan Academy’s “Social Security Intro” Link: YouTube: Khan Academy’s “Social Security Intro” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this video, which provides an overview on how Social Security works. While watching the video, think about governmental concerns over the program’s long-term sustainability. Is privatizing Social Security, as many public officials have called for, a good idea?
 
Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to the Khan Academy, the original version can be found here.

  • Web Media: YouTube: Khan Academy’s “FICA Tax” Link: YouTube: Khan Academy’s “FICA Tax” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch this video on the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), a tax on earned income that is paid into Social Security and Medicare. This video provides an overview on FICA and how the tax is calculated.
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to the Khan Academy, and the original version can be found here.

5.3.3 Public Assistance Programs and Reform   - Reading: Health Care Financing Review: Diane Rowland, Sc.D., and Barbara Lyons, Ph.D.’s “Medicare, Medicaid, and the Elderly Poor” Link: Health Care Financing Review: Diane Rowland, Sc.D., and Barbara Lyons, Ph.D.’s “Medicare, Medicaid, and the Elderly Poor” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the above article, which provides an overview of Medicare, Medicaid, and its impact on the elderly poor.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Web Media: YouTube: Khan Academy’s “Medicare Sustainability” Link: YouTube: Khan Academy’s “Medicare Sustainability” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch this video, which discusses how Medicare works and provides a critique of the program’s sustainability and financial viability over the long term.
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to the Khan Academy, and the original version can be found here.

5.3.4 Education Policy   - Reading: Annenberg Institute for School Reform: Voices in Urban Education: Gail L. Sunderman’s “The Federal Role in Education: From the Reagan to the Obama Administration” Link: Annenberg Institute for School Reform: Voices in Urban Education: Gail L. Sunderman’s “The Federal Role in Education: From the Reagan to the Obama Administration” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read this section on pages 6-14. Historically, the federal government has had a minimal role in education in comparison to state and local governments. The author discusses how the federal role has evolved over the past 30 years.
 
Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: C-SPAN Video Library: “Education Reform” Link: C-SPAN Video Library: “Education Reform” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: This video features a panel discussion with US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and mayors and superintendents of Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago, about their school reform initiatives. Topics include early childhood education, after school programs, US education competitiveness, and higher education.
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.3.5 Regulatory Policy   - Reading: Congressional Research Service: Curtis W. Copeland’s “Regulatory Reform in the 112th Congress” Link: Congressional Research Service: Curtis W. Copeland’s “Regulatory Reform in the 112th Congress” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read pages 1-12 of this report, which provides an introduction to the federal regulatory process and current rule-making requirements. Regulation – also known as rule making – is a major activity of government. Economic regulation aims to control the behavior of business in the marketplace. Social regulation aims to correct the unintended side effects of economic activity and to ensure equal rights in employment, housing, and the like. Reflect back on what you learned in Unit 3 about the bureaucracy and how it might play a major role in this type of public policy. Feel free to peruse some of the recently proposed bills on regulatory reforms by Congress.
 
Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Mobile App: Wonky Chart, LLC’s *Wonky Chart* Link: Wonky Chart LLC’s Wonky Chart (iOS app)
     
    Instructions: Open this optional app, which provides a variety of charts on nearly every aspect of federal economic policy – taxes, the budget, unemployment, income, wealth, and poverty. Please note that there is a cost associated with this app, which may be purchased for $0.99.
     
    Reading through this app should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 5.3.5 − Quickfire Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 5.3.5 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
     
    Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

5.4 Foreign and Defense Policy   - Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Foreign Policy” Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Foreign Policy” (PPT)
 
Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Foreign and Defense Policy I” and “Foreign and Defense Policy II” below.
 
Watching these presentations and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Foreign and Defense Policy I” and “Foreign and Defense Policy II” Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Foreign and Defense Policy I” (YouTube) and “Foreign and Defense Policy II” (YouTube)
     
    Also available in:
    iTunes U (Lecture 26 and 27)
     
    Instructions: Watch these two lectures on foreign and defense policy. Foreign policy refers to actions the United States government takes on behalf of its national interests abroad to ensure the security and wellbeing of Americans and the strength and competitiveness of the US economy. A secure group of citizens requires protection of recognized national boundaries, a strong economy, and a stable, orderly society. The Constitution lays out the institutional framework for foreign and defense policy that is clearly a federal power, not a power of the states. The Framers intended to divide responsibility for foreign affairs between the president and Congress.
     
    Watching these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott, and the original version can be found here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 17: Foreign and National Security Policies” Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 17: Foreign and National Security Policies” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read Chapter 17 on pages 725-783. The United States has adopted many, sometimes competing, foreign policy goals over the years, from promoting peace in the Middle East to addressing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Today, it is putting its greatest interest in winning the war on terrorism and promoting trade in an increasingly global economy.
     
    Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

5.4.1 Making Foreign Policy: Key Players and Institutions   - Reading: Congressional Research Service: Richard F. Grimmett’s “Foreign Policy Roles of the President and Congress” Link: Congressional Research Service: Richard F. Grimmett’s “Foreign Policy Roles of the President and Congress” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this report to learn more about the key players in foreign policy making in the United States. As with all policy making, many people have a hand in setting US foreign policy. One of the primary objectives of foreign policy is to use diplomacy to solve international problems and to try to keep problems from developing into military conflicts.
 
Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Reading: US Department of State: “Diplomacy: The US State Department at Work” Link: US Department of State: “Diplomacy: The US State Department at Work” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: In addition to stating the State Department’s main goals, this publication provides an overview of how the US exercises diplomatic relations with foreign governments, international organizations, and the people of other countries.
     
    Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

5.4.2 American Foreign Policy: Past, Present and Future   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Background of American Foreign Policy” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Background of American Foreign Policy” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read this article, which provides a brief overview of the major trends in the foreign policy of the United States from the American Revolution to the present.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

  • Web Media: C-SPAN Video Library: “US Foreign Policy” Link: C-SPAN Video Library: “US Foreign Policy” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Watch this video. Scholars Thomas Pickering and David Sanger discuss US foreign policy, focusing on the cultural and historical aspects of US foreign policy and US national security.
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.4.3 Global Policy Issues   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Investment and Trade” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Investment and Trade” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read this article. After the fall of communism, the ensuing new world order situated the United States as the world’s sole superpower. Some of the emerging issues in this new order have included global investment, terrorism, the environment, and humanitarian aid.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • Mobile App: USGLC’s *US Global Leadership Coalition* Link: USGLC’s US Global Leadership Coalition (iOS app)
     
    Instructions: Open this optional app, which features a number of up-to-date news articles on globalization and world development issues. Also included are updates on congressional action regarding the federal budget and international affairs funding, editorials, and videos.
     
    Reading through this optional app should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.4.4 Additional Resources   - Mobile App: Brainscape’s *US Government* Link: Brainscape’s US Government (iOS app)
 
Instructions: Open this optional app, which provides a library of topics that you’ve studied throughout this course – the Constitution, Congress, Supreme Court cases, elections, the presidency – and a vocabulary of essential terms and acronyms. This app is similar to a deck of flashcards, but it adapts to your own learning curve. When a new card is generated, you will be asked to think of the answer and then reveal it by flipping the card. The app will also ask how confident you feel that you will remember the concept and repeats “low-confidence” questions more frequently.
 
Reading through all the flashcards should take approximately 2 hours.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Mobile App: Pommier Pierre Etienne’s *US Politics* Link: Pommier Pierre Etienne’s US Politics (iOS app)
     
    Instructions: Open this optional app, which will provide you with a useful primer for the final exam by reviewing terms and key points studied throughout the course. It offers 20 videos and 200 repetition exercises on American politics.
     
    Reading through this optional app should take approximately 2 hours.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

Unit 5 Current Events Challenge   - Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 5 Current Events Challenge” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 5 Current Events Challenge” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Follow the instructions to connect concepts learned in Unit 5 to current political events in American government.
 
Completing this activity should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Unit 5 Assessment   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 5 Assessment” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 5 Assessment” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Complete this assessment. You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School account in order to access this quiz. If you do not yet have an account, you will be able to create one, free of charge, after clicking the link.
 
Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour.

Final Exam   - Final Exam: The Saylor Foundation’s “POLSC231 Final Exam” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “POLSC231 Final Exam” (HTML)
 
Instructions: You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School account in order to access this exam. If you do not yet have an account, you will be able to create one, free of charge, after clicking the link.