December 10, 2009

Agendas and alternatives

Little Edith Ann has a dirty mouth some days.

The theme at Goat Rope lately is how public policy is made, which is usually a lot messier in practice than it is in theory. You will also find links and comments about current events.

As discussed in earlier posts, in Policyland, there is a big difference between agendas and alternatives. Political or public policy agendas are the big picture priorities often laid out by political leaders such as presidential administrations or leading legislators. Alternatives involve the specific ways of dealing with or implementing the items on the agenda.

As John Kingdon put it in Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policy,

Apart from the set of subjects or problems that are on the agenda, a set of alternatives for governmental action is seriously considered by governmental officials and those closely associated with them.

Usually for any problem that makes its way onto a policy agenda--health care reform being one example--there are any number of ways of approaching the subject. Sticking with health care, alternatives might include single payer, a Medicare for all option to compete with private insurance (which would probably have been the easiest way to deal with it), or a mix of private insurance reforms with public ones like what seems to be on the table now.

While those who set the agenda are high profile public figures, often the specific policy alternatives are developed and floated offstage by experts, congressional or administrative staff, advocacy and interest groups. Usually, out of a wide range of possible alternatives, a select few are given serious attention.

Again, using health care as an example, President Obama made it an early priority and laid out a series of elements that he wanted it to contain, a priority shared by many in Congress. However, it was mostly left to Congress to develop specific legislation. In Congress, the specifics of the House and Senate versions were mostly developed offstage to meet the priorities set by congressional leadership.

People working at the grassroots have two challenges. One is to work as skillfully as possible to get specific problems on the agenda to start with. The second is to try to influence the alternatives that make it to the agenda.

I CAN'T BELIEVE IT, but I'm with Friedman on this one.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, a new poll shows that most Americans would support climate change legislation--and paying for it--if it increased jobs.

ONE MORE THING. Here's Wired Science on the psychology of climate change denial.

THE (LATEST) DEAL on the Senate's health care compromise is discussed here. For what it's worth, El Cabrero thinks the Medicare buy-in provision is a very big deal and could mean more in the long run than a weak public option.

KEEPING IT REAL. Here's a call for relevant social science research.


No comments: