Wednesday, Oct. 25 - Civics- Public Policy

Objective: Understand that actions taken by the government to address the concerns of the voting public are known as public policies.

When the U.S. government needs to address a problem affecting its citizens it creates a public policy. Because the U.S. government addresses so many issues, it creates thousands of public policies – or rules and guidelines.

Local governments make city and government policies – such as health codes. States make state policies, such as income taxes and federal governments make federal policies,  such as the minimum voting age. Other policies focus on health, education and economics. Domestic policies relate to the policies within the United States. Foreign policies are policies that relate to other countries, which guide the relationships the U.S. has with other nations.

Creating policies is a complicated process:

  1. Problem is identified
  2. Solutions are offered for the problem (from lawmakers, citizens, researchers, special interest groups, etc.)
  3. Policy makers choose the solution that has the most support and pass it to Congress for a vote
  4. If Congress passes the policy, it is adopted. However, the president can adopt a policy by signing an order. The Supreme Court can create policy through a ruling in an important case.
  5. After a public policy is adopted, it is implemented. Government agencies are in charge of implementing new policies.
  6. After a policy is implemented, it is evaluated – policy makers gather information about the effects of the policy to see if it is working. They may make changes to the policy or if it isn’t working, start over again.

Influences on Public Policy

  1. Special Interest Groups – Groups organized around specific issues, such as the NRA
  2. Public Interest Groups – Groups that work for public policies that will benefit the most Americans, such as Common Cause, which works for openness in the political system
  3. Economic Interest Groups – Groups concerned with policies that affect how they do business and how much money they earn. This include labor unions and trade groups
  4. Lobbyists – People who work to protect and promote different issues, interest and reforms. They are usually former government employees hired by groups or businesses.

State and federal governments have laws about what special interest groups can do. Some laws limit the amount of money they can contribute to a campaign. Some believe special interest groups should not have more power than ordinary citizens. Others feel that these groups help make the wishes of voters known to lawmakers.