Public Policy Influences Learning Team B: Preston Johnson, Stephanie Johnson and Douglas Morrison POL/443 Sherry Wood, JD December 02, 2010 Public Policy Influences According to G. William Domhoff, “the corporate community’s ability to transform its economic power into policy influence and political access makes it the most important influence on the federal government”(Domhoff, p.
xiii). This paper will examine the influence that corporate community and other social forces have on two specific public policy issues: defense spending and organized labor. Summary of IssuesDefense spending has been a controversial issue for many years in this country and has resulted in numerous attempts to influence the general public along with the government. An attempt to influence the general public took place in the mid-1970s, when the Committee on the Present Danger portrayed the ability of the United States to defend itself against foreign threats to be in a state of crisis. Their claim at that point was that government estimates of Soviet defense spending, military capability were far too low, and that defense spending in the United States should increased accordingly (Domhoff, 2010, p. 21).
In reality, these were false claims, put forth for the sole purpose of swaying public opinion. A similar situation exists today with threats of reduced defense spending next year causing several defense contractors to lay off personnel in anticipation of much smaller budgets than are currently in place. Threats of reduced defense budgets have caused groups such as the Heritage Foundation to go on a publicity campaign reminiscent of the 1970s. In a report dated February 22, 2010, Baker Spring writes: “The Obama Administration has proposed an FY 2011 defense budget that is inconsistent ith U.
S. security commitments and the Administration’s own Quadrennial Defense Review. Under the Administration’s current budget outline, total defense spending would decline from $722. 1 billion (4. 9 percent of GDP) in FY 2010 to $698.
2 billion (3. 6 percent) in FY 2015. Inadequate funding will lead to shortfalls in manpower levels, modernization, operational capacity, strategy, and/or force structure, thereby exposing the American people and U. S. friends and allies to an unacceptable level of risk”(Spring, 2010).In contrast to this position, however, is the opinion of much of the general public and of President Obama himself that government contractors have been guilty of waste and excess over the years, and that reform is urgently needed. Obama indicated in a Reuters article dated February 1, 2010, that, while he was recommending that Congress approve $708 billion in defense spending for 2011, he would continue his drive to eliminate unnecessary, wasteful weapons programs (reuters. com).
Both sides of the defense spending issue feel equally strongly about their cause, and both are trying to influence public opinion via the media.Another public policy issue that generates a lot of debate is that of organized labor. There are many who believe that labor unions served a useful purpose in the early years of corporations in this country, but that their time has come and gone. Others believe fervently that without the assistance of labor unions, American workers will be exploited and treated unfairly.
According to the text, Who Rules America, the percent of public employees who are in unions rose from 10. 8 percent in 1960 to a peak of 40. 2 percent in 1976 and has stabilized at approximately 36 percent since that time (Dumhoff, p. 6). Organized labor ties in strongly with defense spending, as many conservatives will argue that one of the main reasons the cost of defense is so high is that the labor unions drive the costs up. Most of the larger defense contractors do have labor unions; thus it understandable that this argument could be made. Just as with the issue of defense spending, there has been a lot of effort put into influencing public opinion and government decisions regarding organized labor.
Analysis of Influence by Different Forces There are a number of forces that influence these public policy issues.Defense spending is influenced by the corporate community, the liberal-labor coalition, special interest groups such as the Heritage Foundation, and Political Action Committees. Organized labor is influenced by the first two forces noted as well as by special interest groups. The ways in which these forces shape the public’s values and educate them are as follows: The corporate community influences primarily through interlocks, which are created when a person sits on two or more corporate boards to create a single network of overlapping directors. Domhoff, p. 24). This result in a very powerful, interconnected “inner circle” with the ability to influence government based on the sheer economic power of the corporate community (Domhoff, p. 52).
The liberal-labor coalition influences through a small network of liberal political organizations, unions, and the government in an attempt to challenge the corporate community (Domhoff, p. 113). It also includes two think tanks: the Progressive Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress (both adjunct of the Democratic Party).The coalition has excellent media connections, and thus the ability to obtain wide coverage for stories critical of corporate policy proposals (Domhoff, p. 114). Special interest-groups influence primarily through lobbyists, company lawyers, and trade associations, with a focus on congressional committees, departments of the executive branch and regulatory agencies (Domhoff, p. 18).
Political Action Committees shape and educate the public’s values through large donations given by their executives and stockholders, which can then be used to influence politicians to vote in favor of increased defense spending.All of these outside forces influence the public policies in different ways; some have advantages over others in influencing public policy. Advantages that Social Forces have in Influencing Public Policy In the past the public in general gave very little attention to defense spending, with belief there is no need or pressure for alteration in one direction or the other. The pressure of defense spending comes from the “top down” — from political leaders to the public – instead of the opposite.Foremost public policy is a many-sided and multifaceted development that engages the interaction of many individuals and special interest groups contending and working together to influence policymakers to take action in a specific way. This is seen with Political Action Committee (PAC) more than the other social forces, this group uses a multiplicity of strategies and tools to move forward their concepts, including campaigning their positions publicly while educating followers and challengers.The current situation with the Obama Administration wanting to increase defense spending is influenced by social forces such as Liberal Labor Coalition and more with the Political Action Committee. This is common practice in the United States, this theory refers not only to the outcome of public policies, but also, mostly to the decision-making and analysis of governmental decisions.
Issue Networks: How they function and influence Public Policy Congress in the approaching years will decide whether to approve funds for the development of a missile defense shield, which is part of defense spending.Despite the fact that Americans originally responded upbeat to the idea of building such a shield to protect the United States from a nuclear attack, they are usually oblivious to the issue and base their responses to the wording of the poll questions. The current outcome proposes that no public agreement has come out on whether the missile should, in fact, be built, even though early responses were inclined to be positive — particularly in the post-9/11 atmosphere. In turn, public support may largely depend on the actions mainly of the Public Action Committee along with the other social forces.
With the 9/11 event it allowed PAC to influence the public and raised funds through advertising and publicity such as the Internet and television. Another social force to join the influencing is the Liberal-Labor coalition, which was stated by the Foon Rhee “The groups plan similar grassroots events, phone banks, and e-mails campaigns targeting members of Congress, as well as paid advertising. More than 40 major organizations have so far signed onto the $5 million to $7 million campaign, Americans United for Change said. ” (Rhea, 2009) The Force with the Highest Distribution of Power over the Issues DiscussedPolitical Action Committees are focused and devoted to raising and spending money to obtain their goals of electing or defeating political candidates. As stated, “In 1944, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the CIO part of what is today the AFL-CIO, wanted to help President Franklin Roosevelt get re-elected. Standing in their way was the Smith Connally Act of 1943, which made it illegal for labor unions to contribute funds to federal candidates. The CIO went around Smith Connally by urging individual union members to voluntarily contribute money directly to the Roosevelt campaign.
It worked very well and PACs or political action committees were born. Since then, PACs have raised billions of dollars for thousands of candidates and causes” (Longley, n. d. ). It has been reported by the Federal Election Commissions that PACs raised $629. 3 million, exhausted $514. 9 million, and donated $205.
1 million to federal candidates from January 1, 2003 through June 30, 2004. Some corporations that are contributors to the PAC is the Teamster Union, which is organized labor also part of Liberal labor coalition and Microsoft, who is also part of Corporate community social force.Both groups sometimes solicit contributions from their members or employees for the PACs political party or candidates. Another reason the PAC has the force with the highest distribution of power is that they have different types of PACs. Besides organizations and corporate companies the PAC also has a sect named leadership PACs. This is a group of politicians who help fund the campaigns of other politicians.
It is not uncommon for politicians to establish a leadership PACs with the purpose to show their party allegiance or to promote oneself for future goal of election to a higher office. Under federal election laws, PACs can legally contribute only $5,000 to a candidate committee per election (primary, general or special). They can also give up to $15,000 annually to any national party committee, and $5,000 annually to any other PAC. However, there is no limit to how much PACs can spend on advertising in support of candidates or in promotion of their agendas or beliefs. PACs must register with and file detailed financial reports of monies raised and spent to the Federal Election Commission“(Longley, n. d.
).Others Who Have Power Over the Issues Power over issues is established when individuals gain leverage, which allows them to force others to do something against there will. In this country everyone in business is expected to play by a predetermined set of rules that are laid out for him or her in the United States Constitution along with federal, state, and local laws. By design the constitution of the United States gives the power to the people who elect officials. These officials are then expected to make decisions on the behalf of the majority.In theory all of this sounds great because, it would in theory give power to majority but historically there have been several problems with this system. Initially, the United States Constitution was intended to support the ideals of wealthy White men who were the majority at the time.
It would among other things, serve as a tool to help protect ones property and settle disputes. No power, in the form of a vote, was given to women or people of color. Over time many addendums have added to reflect the changing of the times. The constitution today protects and gives value to the opinions of every American citizen.One of the biggest problems today is that everyone wants to be the representative of the people.
It could be proven difficult to sort through all the literature put out on regular bases about which policies to support or defend against nowadays. One example is this group supports this action and that group says it will destroy something valuable. Often it is difficult for a few highly educated individuals to determine which group is correct so how could anyone expect the majority of a population to know who is right. Today power belongs, more too political parties and special interest groups.These individual clusters of devoted individuals make up some of the most influential policy makers and supporters. One interesting example of the power of a collective voice is the tea party movement. Armed with the constitution members of this movement are gaining more and more political power or leverage as people decide to join the movement when they realize the party’s potential influence on key issues and policies. What is more interesting is how loyal to the group the people are to the group.
As mentioned earlier it can be difficult for someone to truly know with certainty, which policy will bring the most good, to the most people.For instance someone with developed public speaking ability and the charisma to win over a crowd, he or she may become instantly the most powerful person in the room. As with any team of people there must be a leader and oftentimes it is the voice of that leader the people understand and is the one that is heard the loudest. Some examples of such charismatic individuals who represent the voice of powerful groups include, but are not limited to the current and former presidents, elected officials, celebrity activists, and people like Sara Palin, who have recently become especially popular among tea party members amidst opposition.Comparative Analysis of Findings In conclusion one can see that when comparing issues as different as this countries allocated budget for defense or how much power is to be given to any given labor forces the key decision makers are often from the same groups.
These distant groups are well funded and educated. They are often self-serving and have the power and the right to fund and promote anyone who supports their agenda even if it is unpopular. Knowing this, it is just as important to research and check to see who is backing the decisions as it is the decision itself. References Domhoff, W. G. (2010).
Who Rules America?. Challenges to Corporate and Class Dominance (6th ed. ). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Company. P. 18, 24, 52, 96, 113, 114, 121 Longley, R.
(n. d. ). Political Action Committees. Retrieved from http://usgovinfo. about.
com/od/thepoliticalsystem/a/aboutpacs. Rhea, F. (2009, March 4). Liberal-Labor coalition launches drive for Obama budget. Boston News. Retrieved from http://www. boston. com/news/politics/ Spring, B.
(2010). The 2011 Defense Budget: Inadequate and Full of Inconsistencies. Retrieved from http://www. heritage. org/Research/Reports http://www.