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Chapter 13 - The Bureaucracy

Chapter 13 The Bureaucracy46.5 KB

Intro Stuff: Bureaucracy (the real meaning) = A large, complex organization composed of appointed officials, where authority is divided among several managers and/or departments. Bureaucracies have come to be associated with “waste, confusion, red tape, and rigidity.” We blame many of our problems on “the bureaucracy.” But in actuality, many of the problems are a result of the actions of Congress, the courts, and the president.

  1. Distinctiveness of the American Bureaucracy
    1. Bureaucratic government is a part of all modern societies. However, the United States has three aspects of constitutional system and political traditions that make it distinctive.
      1. Political authority over the bureaucracy is shared among several institutions rather than placed into one set of hands. This contrasts with systems such as the British one, where the prime minister rules supreme (in theory).
      2. Most agencies of the federal government share functions with related agencies in state and local government. This contrasts with systems present in places like France, where the things like education, health, housing, etc. are centralized, with little or no local control.
      3. American institutions and traditions have given rise to an “adversary culture,” one where personal rights are given central importance. In other words, we argue more with every decision made by the government. However, in Sweden, similar decisions go largely uncontested.
    2. Also, the scope of the United States government differs from most others. Many European governments own companies that make automobiles and tobacco. Here, however, we are regulated to an extent not found in other countries. We choose regulation over ownership.
  2. The Growth of Bureaucracy
    1. The gov’t didn’t really start out as a bureaucracy. The Constitution makes no provisions for such a system.
    2. The center of power that came to be the bureaucracy was first seen in the first Congress in 1789. James Madison introduced a bill to create a Department of State to assist the Secretary of State in carrying out duties. What’s important is that the people appointed to the department were nominated by the President and approved by Senate, but they were “to be removable by the president” alone. A big debate started about whether or not the president should be given the sole power to fire subordinates.
    3. The president ended up getting this power. However, that still didn’t mean that the president controlled the bureaucracy, for Congress and Supreme Court still wielded considerable enough power to make the President think twice before doing anything rash.
    4. The Appointment of Officials
      1. Even though the bureaucracy started really, really small, the question of appointment was still bitterly fought over.
      2. The officials selected have to be considered in a bunch of fronts:
        1. political ideology: affects how laws are interpreted.
        2. personal character: affects the tone of the administration.
        3. competence: affects how well public business is discharged.
        4. party affiliation: affects how strong the political party in power is.
      3. However, presidents trying to balance the needs of ideology, character, fitness, and partisanship have rarely pleased most people.
        1. Said John Adams, “Every appointment creates one ingrate and ten enemies.”
      4. Appointments were often influenced by congressional preferences and patronage. In short, the spoils system (“Give the loyal ones rewards.”).
      5. When the Civil War came around, many new officials were appointed and the administrative weakness of the federal government was revealed. Here was seen the need for civil service reform.
      6. In time, the constitutional powers of interstate commerce, before dormant, became an important source of controversy.
    5. A Service Role
      1. From 1861 to 1901 many new agencies were created to serve, not regulate.
      2. The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), created in 1887, marked the time when federal government began to regulate the economy in a large way. But even then the ICC had relatively few powers.
      3. The idea that federal officials should perform primarily a service role persisted for a long time. The commitment to laissez-faire (freely competitive economy) was held. Also the Constitution said nothing about giving regulatory powers to bureaucrats. It only gave those powers to Congress. Congress couldn’t really regulate because it would be much too complex. As late as 1935, both Congress and Supreme Court felt that regulatory agencies could not make rules on its own.
      4. However, during wartime these restrictions were set aside. President Woodrow Wilson was given many regulatory powers from Congress.
      5. Though most powers ended with the war, some persisted. Federal agencies kept growing through all the wars. The argument was that the agencies, which persisted, had some connection to the war effort, and seldom did anyone desire to vote against the war effort.
      6. That caused agencies to find sometimes far-fetched excuses for additional employees. For example, the Reindeer Service in Alaska asked for more employees because reindeer were “a valued asset in military planning.”
    6. A Change in Role
      1. The bureaucracy we have now is a product of the Depression and World War II. Since then, the government has played an active role in dealing with economic and social problems.
      2. For example, World War II marked heavy use of the federal income tax to finance activities. After the war, there was no substantial tax reduction, in the belief that the gov’t should “remain ready.”
  3. The Federal Bureaucracy Today
    1. No one wants to say they increased the bureaucracy, but it has increased. Though the number of direct workers has stayed about the same, there may be as many as four people working indirectly for the government for every one person who works directly.
    2. The power of the bureaucracy can be determined by the amount of discretionary authority (the ability to act and make policies not spelled out by the law) given to appointed officials. By this measure, the federal bureaucracy has grown enormously.
    3. Congress has delegated authority to administrative agencies in three main areas:
      1. paying subsidies to particular groups (farmers, schools, hospitals, etc.).
      2. transferring money from the federal to the state and local governments (e.g. grant-in-aid programs).
      3. devising and enforcing regulations for various sectors of society and the economy.
    4. Administrative functions operate at all levels of independence, some closely scrutinized, others barely monitored. Today, many agencies have a heck of a lot of power they didn’t before. They could probably decide how much sugar is put into peppermints (an exaggeration, but not by much.).
    5. These powers must be used carefully. Generally, four factors determine the behavior of the officials in using these powers:
      1. How they are recruited and rewarded.
      2. Personal attributes (socio-economic backgrounds, political party, etc.).
      3. Job nature.
      4. Constraints from outside forces (lobbies, journalists, Mafia, etc.).
    6. Recruitment and Retention
      1. The federal civil service system was designed to recruit workers based on merit, not patronage.
      2. A system of competitive service has arisen, where officials are only appointed after passing criteria set by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
      3. However, many workers are hired by other means. Agencies such as the FBI can set their own criteria, and it is wrong to assume that a standardized, centralized system governs federal service.
      4. Also, the kinds of workers are changing. Blue-collar is falling, white-collar is rising.
      5. A small margin of employees is appointed on narrowly defined, alternate grounds. There are generally three kinds:
        1. Presidential appointments authorized by statue (e.g. ambassadors).
        2. “Schedule C” jobs: “confidential or policy-determining character” below cabinet posts (executive assistants, special aides, etc.)
        3. Noncareer Executive Assignments (NEA jobs) given to members deeply involved in promoting presidential programs or participating in policy-making.
      6. All these changes were embodied in the 1883 Pendleton Act, which started a steady transfer from the spoils system to the merit system. The Pendleton Act was made easier to pass because of examples such as:
        1. Public outrage over abuses of the spoils system, further accentuated by the assassination of President James Garfield by a “disappointed office seeker” a.k.a. lunatic.
        2. The fear that if Democrats came to power on a wave of anti-spoils sentiment, existing Republican officeholders would be fired.
      7. The conversion also meant that the President would no longer enjoy the privilege of hiring and firing subordinates. Good or bad?
    7. The Buddy System
      1. Another way to circumvent the merit system is by the name-request job. Basically, an agency that has already identified a person for a position submits a form describing a job to the OPM. On the same form is the name of the person who they want for the job. They can even make the job description so specific so that only that person qualifies for it.
        1. However, it does not necessarily produce poor employees. It is often used to hire people who possess special knowledge for a specific committee who don’t need to know all the other stuff to pass the civil service tests.
    8. Firing a Bureaucrat (pg. 424 has a box that explains circumventing the system for this.)
      1. The bureaucrats that are part of the civil service system and aren’t appointed by the president are, in essence, untouchable.
      2. However, people that don’t like it find ways around it: denying promotion, giving them bad jobs, meaningless work, etc.
      3. To create more flexibility for high-ranking position, the Senior Executive Service (SES) was created. It was for top-ranking managers that could be easily switched around or fired. But SES members get cash bonuses for good service, and, in case they are fired, are guaranteed positions elsewhere. But it didn’t work very well, because SES members have to approve transfers.
    9. The Agency’s Point of View
      1. Often, the staff in an agency came by name-request or specific recruiting. Therefore, an agency usually has a unified point of view, and the people working in that agency usually have never worked anywhere else. This means that the people there are experts in what they do and also means that trying to change anything is a difficult process, to say the least.
    10. Personal Attributes
      1. Critics speculate that the bureaucracy may be either more liberal or more conservative than the people it supposedly helps to govern. This is caused by the fact that, while the civil service system as a whole is a cross-section of the American society, the higher levels are dominated by middle-aged, college-educated, advantaged, white guys.
      2. Surveys say that top-level bureaucrats are generally more liberal than the average American. However, top-level bureaucrats also have a habit of going the middle path.
      3. The kind of committee that bureaucrats work for makes a difference, whether it’s activist or preservationist, etc. Generally, policy views reflect the work done.
    11. Do Bureaucrats Sabotage Their Political Bosses?
      1. Though it may seem likely that many bureaucrats, due to the difficulty of removing them, may attempt to sabotage their employers when they do not agree with their decisions, indications point to the contrary.
      2. However, this is explained using a pseudo-psychological approach. Loosely defined roles, such as voting, are highly influenced by personal attitudes, partly because of the freedom permitted. However, highly structured roles, ones closely defined by laws or other restrictions, ones that are closely monitored, or ones that are highly routine, are performed more separate from personal attitudes and usually with little sabotage.
    12. Culture and Careers
      1. The culture of an agency is formed by the implicit, unspoken understandings among fellow employees considering proper conduct.
      2. Jobs that are career enhancing are part of the culture. Jobs that are Not Career Enhancing (NCE) are not part of it.
      3. A strong culture may motivate employees to work harder, but it also prevents employees from accepting jobs and or positions “against the culture” or NCE.
    13. Constraints
      1. The biggest difference between a government agency and a private business is the greater number of constraints placed on the first.
      2. One of the biggest constraints is that Congress never gives a single job to a single agency. Thus:
        1. Action is slow.
        2. Action is inconsistent.
        3. Action is blocked rather than taken.
        4. Lower-level employees hesitate to make decisions.
        5. Citizens complain of red tape.
      3. That means the great big government is just a tad bit clumsy.
    14. Why So Many Constraints?
      1. Who put in the constraints? Apparently, we did. We, the people.
      2. We want a big bit of everything. If we wanted less red tape, then we would have to ask Congress to repeal some of the constraints.
      3. But politics actually encourages us to expect everything (efficiency, fairness, help for minorities, gender equality, etc.) all at once.
    15. Agency Allies
      1. Constraints are a useful way of gaining relationships with committees or interest groups.
      2. Iron triangle = relationship between an agency, a committee, and an interest group, usually tight and mutually advantageous. An example of client politics.
      3. However, iron triangles have declined due to the growing complexity of Congress—the fact that agencies are subject to many interests instead of just one, the fact that subcommittees bring a single committee under the control of many different legislative groups, and the fact that courts make it easy for others to interfere.
      4. So now, instead of iron triangles, we have issue networks, which is a whole bunch of things mashed together. Usually, a president, upon taking office, will recruit those members of the network most sympathetic to his view.
  4. Congressional Oversight
    1. Interest groups important to Congress are almost automatically important to agencies.
    2. This is because Congress has so much power to “supervise”:
      1. No agency may exist without congressional approval.
      2. No money is spent unless with congressional authorization.
      3. Authorized funds must also be appropriated by Congress before spent.
    3. Authorization legislation states the maximum amount of money an agency can spend on a given program.
    4. After that, the appropriation says how much may actually be spent at that time, and is usually less than the sum stated by the authorization legislation.
    5. The Appropriations Committee and Legislative Committees
      1. In the past, the Appropriations Committee was rarely challenged due to the enormous power they wielded: they had the power of “marking up” (revising), amending, and approving the budget.
      2. However, the committee has lost some of its power in three ways:
        1. Trust funds, which pay for many benefits, operate outside Appropriations.
        2. Annual authorizations mean that the legislative committees must re-authorize the budget of several agencies, and decreases the limit-setting power of Appropriations.
        3. Budget deficits during the ‘80s and early ‘90s meant that Congress often set target-spending limits without Appropriations consent.
      3. Committee clearance means certain committees may obtain the right to pass on certain agency decisions. Though not legally binding, it is nonetheless powerful and seldom ignored.
    6. The Legislative Veto
      1. The legislative veto required that executive decisions lay before Congress for a specified period before taking effect. During that time, Congress could veto the decision if a one-house or two-house were achieved. Unlike laws, the president didn’t have to sign this resolution.
      2. But Supreme Court declared that veto unconstitutional. In theory, it is no longer in existence.
      3. Yet there are still a number of laws passed after the Supreme Court decision that contain legislative vetoes, probably done through congressional influence.
    7. Congressional Investigation: As long as investigations are not solely held to expose purely personal affairs of private individuals and do not act to deprive citizens of their basic rights, Congress may hold investigations through an ability inferred from the power to legislate.
  5. Bureaucratic “Pathologies”
    1. There are five major (or frequently mentioned) problems with bureaucracies:
      1. Red tape: complex rules and procedures that must be followed to get something done.
      2. Conflict: agencies seem to be working against other agencies.
      3. Duplication: two or more agencies seem to be doing the same thing.
      4. Imperialism: when agencies grow without regard to benefit or cost.
      5. Waste: spending more than is necessary.
    2. However, there are a few excuses:
      1. Red tape: We need a way of making sure one part of the government doesn’t operate out of step with another.
      2. Conflict and duplication: Congress often wants to achieve many different, partially inconsistent goals. Or, it finds that it doesn’t know which goal it wants to achieve the most.
      3. Imperialism: When Congress is unsure of what the agencies are supposed to do, the agencies take the broadest meaning and use the largest view of its powers. Also, the vacuum left by Congress is often filled by interest groups and judges.
      4. Waste: Waste is existent, though highly exaggerated ($91 for a light bulb. Yeah. Right.). There is little incentive to lower costs, for there is no personal reward as there is in private businesses. Also, the government has red tape to go through that private firms don’t.
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