Public Policy Process
CMC Government 116 Fall 2011
MW 1:15-2:30 PM, Kravis Center, LC63

Office Hours: MW 11-noon, 4:15-5:15, and by appointment


J.J. Pitney

Office: Kravis Center 232    Telephone:  909/607-4224

E-mail: or


This course analyzes the politics of public policymaking.  Its focus is on domestic policy, although much of the material does apply to foreign policy and national security. It poses several questions:

The course has these additional goals: 



Classes will include lecture and discussion.  Finish the readings before class because our discussions will involve those readings.  We shall also talk about breaking news, so you must read a good news source such as the RealClearPolitics or Politico


The following will make up your course grade: 
Three 4-page essays .. 20% each
One sit-down final .. 25%
Class participation and presentation .. 15%


Our class blog is at  I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there.  We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience.   You will all receive invitations to post to the blog.  (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.)  I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:

Remember that the blog is on the open Internet. Post nothing that would look bad to a potential employer.

Required Books

Schedule (Subject to change, with advance notice).

In addition to the readings below, I may also supply you with various handouts and Internet links.

Aug 31:  Introduction

"Rely on planning but never trust plans." – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Sept 5, 7:  An Overview

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy." -- Sir Ernest Benn

Sept 12, 14:  Policy Analysis I

“When statistics are not based on strictly accurate calculations, they mislead instead of guide. The mind easily lets itself be taken in by the false appearance of exactitude which statistics retain even in their mistakes, and confidently adopt errors clothed in the forms of mathematical truth.”  -- Alexis deTocqueville, Democracy in America



Sept 19, 21: Policy Analysis II

"The Government are very keen on amassing statistics – they collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams.  But what you must never forget is that every one of those numbers comes in the first instance from the village watchman, who just puts down what he damn pleases." -- Josiah Stamp

Sept 26, 28: Agenda Setting

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” – Yogi Berra  

Oct 3, 5: Policy Initiation and Selection

"I would say that the tobacco industry, the tobacco farmers, the Federal Government, all .citizens want to have an accurate and an enlightened education program and research program to make the smoking of tobacco even more safe than it is today." -- President Carter, in Wilson, North Carolina, August 5, 1978.

Oct 10, 12:  Implementation I

"Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected." -- President Obama, June 13, 2011.


Oct 19: Implementation II

"Government proposes, bureaucracy disposes.  And the bureaucracy must dispose of government proposals by dumping them on us." --P.J. O’Rourke  

Oct 24, 26: Budgeting and Evaluation

Question: What was the desired effect?

Gen. Myers: The desired effect was to kill al-Qaeda.

Question: What sort of results are you aware of? What did your people on the ground see?

Myers: Dead al-Qaeda.  

                            -- DOD press briefing, December 11, 2001

Oct 31, Nov 2: Reform

"We live and do business in the information age, but the last major reorganization of the Government happened in the age of black-and-white TV. There are 12 different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different agencies that deal with housing policy. Then there's my favorite example: The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater.  I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked." -- President Obama, State of the Union Address, January 25, 2011.


November 7, 9: Economic Policy

"If you’re going to be an academic who’s involved in the world of policy, you have to be involved in the world that exists. I was always a data guy, not a theorist. Theorists can maintain total purity. The data are always messy." -- Austan Goolsbee

November 14, 16: Health and Welfare Policy

"This plan would require that employers offer a comprehensive health insurance plan to all their full-time employees, with the employer paying a share of its costs. The role of private health insurance in financing health care would be expanded and the consumer's opportunity to choose between competing health insurance plans would be enhanced."  -- President Nixon, State of the Union Address, January 20, 1974.

November 21, 23:  Education Policy

"Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year, because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees." -- NEA General Counsel Bob Chanin, July 2009.

Nov 28, 30:  Energy, Environment, Defense, and Law Enforcement


"It is not too much to expect that our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter, will know of great periodic regional famines in the world only as matters of history, will travel effortlessly over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a lifespan far longer than ours as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age." -- Lewis L. Strauss
Speech to the National Association of Science Writers, New York City September 16, 1954.

Dec 5, 7:  Culture Wars


"I have observed with profound sorrow the role that many religious leaders have played in urging passage of this bill, because I cannot make their activities jibe with my concept of the proper place of religious leaders in our national life … This is the second time in my lifetime an effort has been made by the clergy to make a moral question of a political issue. The other was prohibition.  We know something of the results of that." -- Senator Richard Russell, Congressional Record, June 10, 1964, p. 13309.



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