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AP GoPo - The Bureacracy

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Conor Thomas

on 4 February 2016

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Transcript of AP GoPo - The Bureacracy

How the American Bureaucracy is Distinct
3 Unique features:
The authority over the bureaucracy is spread out, and not centralized.
Bureaucratic tasks are spread out b/w federal, state, and local divisions.
Decisions made by these organizations are scrutinized and challenged very often when compared to other countries.
Growth of Bureaucracy
At first, the bureaucracy really didn't exist.
These departments grew slowly as the tasks performed by the gov't became more complex
The Federal Bureaucracy Today
Discretionary Authority- The ability of a bureaucrat to actually make decisions for the government (choose a course of action, make policies, etc.)
This determines real power in bureaucrats.
Congress has recently given discretionary authority to bureaucratic groups by:
giving subsidies to groups, like farmers
giving grants to state and local gov'ts
creating and enforcing regulations on the economy
Congressional Oversight
Congress supervises the bureaucracy by:
approving their existence
approving money that gets spent
Appropriation of Funds- giving money to an agency to spend
Authorization Legislation- when Congress approves of the activities performed by an agency
Bureaucratic "Pathologies"
Five Problems w/ Bureaucracy:
Red Tape:
extremely complex rules and procedures created to be followed when doing something with the bureaucracy
b/c many agencies' purposes are in direct conflict with others
Duplication (Wasteful Duplication):
when two or more agencies perform the same task
unchecked growth of some agencies
spending more than necessary
AP GoPo - The Bureacracy
Proxy Government
Gov't by Proxy- When the federal gov't pays either local or state gov'ts, or private groups, to handle administration and execution of federal programs.
Some programs that are run in this manner are:
Social Security, Medicare, environmental programs, income tax withholdings
more flexible, better at utilizing private sector, better at using the principles federalism
not good at keeping track of spending, less accountable
Appointment of Officials:
Congressional appointments to the bureaucracy were most important in the 19th cent., so Congress was extremely powerful at that time.
Most of these appts. were made to build up local support and patronage.
The number of spots in the bureaucracy skyrocketed in the 1800s due to the Civil War, industrialization, etc.
A Service Role:
Many new positions in the bureaucracy in the 1800s were in service, not regulation.
Regulation fell out of favor as many people in the government believed in a laissez-faire approach.
War creates an increase in the bureaucracy, often w/o a return to the previous numbers once the war ends.
A Change in Role:
Today's bureaucracy comes from the Great Depression and WWII
These events changed people's thinking to believe that the gov't should be expected to play a role in dealing with social and economic problems.
Federal taxes on income rose sharply during WWII
9/11 is certainly a third changing event:
Dept of Homeland Security, NSA increase, military increases, etc.
Recruitment and Retention:
Most appointed officials have to pass a competitive service test to ensure their ability to perform their tasks.
Sometimes the president will appoint people not because they are qualified, but because they will agree and carry out his policy. These usually happen for:
"Schedule C" appointments, like assistants and aides that have a confidential task
In 1883, the PENDLETON CIVIL SERVICE ACT was created to cut back on the rampant selection of unqualified personnel.
Personal Attributes:
Same problem as Congress and the rest of gov't:
bureaucrats tend to be either more liberal or more conservative than the American public, depending on the president in office.
Do Bureaucrats Sabotage Their Political Bosses?:
Some may be difficult and perform sabotage, since it is so hard to fire them.
However, most follow the political assignments of their bosses.
Culture and Careers:
The culture of a dep't is dependent upon the types of jobs that bureaucrats can have to advance their careers.
For instance, many FBI agents in the 1950s resisted dealing with civil rights cases, since that was not a part of the FBI culture, and wouldn't advance their career.
Gov't agencies have WAY MORE restrictions than private organizations.
A big constraint to gov't agencies comes from the fact that Congress often assigns the same task to multiple agencies
These constraints just make bureaucracy clumsy, not necessarily less powerful.
There are so many constraints b/c the people, and the three branches, have put them in place.
Repealing them would be a trade-off, but we would rather try to have everything all at once then trade-off
Iron Triangle: b/w a congressional committee, bureaucratic agency, and an interest group.
The number of iron triangles has decreased as of late, mostly due to the increasing complexity of American politics.
Today, issue networks may better explain how bureaucratic organizations work with other groups:
interest groups, congressional staffs, think tanks, media, etc. who work with gov't agencies
The Appropriations Committee and Legislative Committees:
The Appropriations Committee wields the real power over an agency's budget
The legislative committees are more important in creating and changing agencies

The Legislative Veto:
Congress USED to have the power to block a presidential action after it was put in place.
The Supreme Court has said Congress does not have this power.
Congressional Investigations:
This is not mentioned in the Constitution as a legislative power, but it was inferred as a power to legislate.
Reforming the Bureaucracy
National Performance Review (NPR):
emphasized customer service instead of increasing presidential control
Most of the changes were easy to make on paper, but not in reality
When the bureaucracy has one leader, then they end up controlling that person
When they have several leaders, the bureaucracy is less efficient, but that might be a positive so it doesn't become too powerful
Full transcript