The U.S. government’s expansive role in public policy is caught in a swirl of conflicting cross-currents. On the one hand, popular expectations about government’s responsibility to solve problems often exceed the capacity of state and local authorities to respond effectively. On the other hand, policies developed at the national level may not sufficiently reflect the great diversity of interests across the U.S. to be effective at the local level. Moreover, the search for effective policy is further complicated by theoretical debates about the constitutional framework of federalism, e.g., what limits on national power can be derived from the 10th Amendment?
Select a policy issue that is in the middle of these cross-currents between national, state, and local authority. It must be a policy area other than education (the focus of Discussion One in Week Two). Some examples include: federal health care policy (e.g., “Obamacare”, Medicaid – not Medicare); federal transportation policy (e.g., federal transportation subsidies); federal highway policy (e.g., federal rules about the minimum drinking age, speed limits, or safety); federal urban planning and renewal policy; federal poverty, welfare and unemployment policies; national security policies that intersect/conflict with local police power; and federal disaster planning and relief. These are only examples. The policy area that you select must have a significant “federalism” component that requires national, state, and local interaction. It should also involve issues with a strong potential for tension or conflict among different levels of government.
Research and write an essay on a specific policy in the area that you select. (Note: The word “policy” is used interchangeably with the word “program.”) Your essay must:
1. Clearly identify and focus on a specific federal policy or program (the policy mustraises issues of “federalism” because it requires national, state and local interaction and invites tension across different levels of government).
2. Summarize the elements of the policy, including the problem it is supposed to solve or improve.
3. Briefly summarize the history of the policy.
4. Explain how the policy raises issues of “federalism”
5. Analyze the main pros and cons in debates about the policy.
6. Evaluate the pros and cons from two perspectives:
o The policy’s effectiveness. (Justify your assessment by clearly explaining your definition of “effectiveness” and how it should be measured or determined.)
o The policy’s consistency with the constitutional framework of federalism. (Justify your assessment by clearly explaining your interpretation of American federalism’s constitutional framework and why the federal policy is or is not consistent with it.)