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The Structural Context of Political and Social Policymaking

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The Structural

Context of Political


Social Policymaking

June 20, 2011

Every country is conditioned to have sets of laws or rules and regulations for their people to follow. Normally, it is called the constitution which is denoted as a system that is tabulated in a written document with the rules and regulations of the administered organization. However, it becomes specific when it comes to a country's constitution because it is more focused on political principles and the procedures, powers, and important duties of a government. It deals with the relationship of each state to its government, the three branches of the government which consist of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial, and lastly the rights of each and every individual. This kind of constitution usually deals with the kind of Constitution the United States of America has. Their first governing constitution consisted of the Articles of Confederation yet it was replaced by the United States Constitution by a group of federalist who felt that the nation's previous constitution lacked fundamental provisions for a sufficient and successful government. So the constitutional basis was transformed from confederation to federation. There is one power that dominates each constitution, making law and regulations for the common good (Dialogue). However, the amendment of the constitution that took place was not that simple due to the factors that affect it. The major factors affecting the policy making process in the U.S. include politicians, input from media and influence from other official and unofficial actors. Policymakers' agenda setting can be influenced by focusing events and other indicators such as a symbol policy and the focus is usually on policies that they believe will have concrete outcomes. It means that their focal point is to come up with the simplest results. Also, they are concerned in the factual rather than the conceptual.

It has been merely impossible since the beginning of time to separate policymaking from politics. Many groups with different interests, such as political groups, and their own agendas are involved throughout all stages of policymaking. Elected officials are not the only people involved in the politics of policy. There are interest groups that come together throughout the policymaking process to "advance their desired political and policy outcomes in politics and society" (Birkland, 2005, p. 81).

We elect politicians on the basis on the issues by which they stand, and these issues are either held up or weakened by the numerous interest groups that exist today. Interest groups target both major and minor issues, using all of their resources to sponsor or overpower the groups' concern. Interest groups are composed of a limited range of the body of voters, or a coalition of groups with similar interest who have a great stake in the issues their group support. They make evident the issues their group supports. Their resources are used in an attempt to make their issue public policy. Interest groups are persistent; they do not give up until they succeed. They lobby congress, take legal action, and attempt to influence election results in order to benefit their cause (Dialogue).

There are two different models of interest group activities; corporatism and pluralism. The corporatist model suggests that interest groups are closely associated with the political process and contribute an important role in the formulation and implementation of a plethora of major political decisions; here one may see that large interest groups can monopolize the representation of their own interests. The pluralist model in contrast maintains that individual interest groups can apply pressure on

political members in a competitive manner and attributes power in policy making to individual groups in specific areas at a particular time (Birkland, 2005, p. 109).

Americans believe strongly that people should take personal responsibility for themselves. Debates about social policy are debates about social responsibility. Social policies are often called "social insurance," however, because they are intended to "insure" people against life's crises and catastrophes-serious sickness, disability, the ravages of aging or job loss (U.S. Government).

Social policies attempt to provide assistance and support to specific groups in society (Primarily groups that the Democratic Party aims to appeal). Many Americans equate social welfare with government monies gained through taxes that are given to the poor. Yet the government gives far more money to the wealthy than to people below the poverty level; only seventeen percent of social spending goes to the poor.

Social welfare policies consist of two kinds of programs and can be considered transfer payments. First are the entitlement programs. An entitlement is any benefit provided by law and regardless of need. The two biggest entitlement programs are Social Security and Medicare. Second are the means-tested programs, which provide benefits selectively only to people with specific needs. To be eligible for these programs, people must be able to prove that they qualify for them. These programs generate powerful political controversy throughout the nation.

For centuries, societies considered family welfare to be a private concern. With the growth of large, depersonalized cities and the requirements of the urban workforce,

government was impelled to take a more active role in social welfare support and create policies to address this problem.

A major change in how Americans viewed government's role in providing social welfare along with social policy came during the Great Depression. After the onset of the Depression in 1929, many Americans began to think that governments must do more to protect their citizens against economic downturns. The federal government responded to this change by passing the Social Security Act of 1935, one of the most significant pieces of social policy passed through legislation of all time. Other major programs such as Medicare were added later.

The 1960s brought an outpouring of federal policies which created programs to help the poor and the elderly, to create economic opportunities for those at the lower rungs of the economic ladder, and to reduce discrimination against minorities. Many of these programs were established during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969), whose administration coined the term the "Great Society" for these policy initiatives.

By the 1980s, many had come to believe that welfare programs of the Great Society had been a failure. President Ronald Reagan



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