Monday, March 5, 2012

The Submerged State of Politics

A topic that was recently discussed in Govt 170-public policy, was this idea of a submerged state of politics. Politics that takes place between a few people mainly political parties and interest groups. I am sure you are not surprised but is this essential for politics to take place?

During the health care reform fiasco after Obama took office the public became aware that politics is full of small deals and hook-ups between interested parties. Most of the public was outraged and dare I say disgusted by this but for those in office it was business as usual.

The submerged state in a nutshell are deals that have been in place for years and even decades. They come in the form of loop holes and tax brakes, normally they are aimed the more affluent income brackets. The nurturing of particular sectors of the economy by legislators has become useful in ways that protect their political future. The deal makers in the submerged state are rich, powerful and influential, which makes change hard to hope for because the status quo is difficult to change. Also the submerged state has become hard for the average individual to notice it and even those affluent citizens don't realize what they are really getting.

Suzanne Mettler discusses the submerged state in an article titled "Reconstituting the Submerged State: The Challenges of Social Policy Reform in the Obama Era," and she states that Obama has been trying to change the status quo with his time in office but there was a system set up before he was in office. This system is strong, hard to defeat and some are not willing to put their jobs on the line to change it.

I just want to take up one point here and that is the idea that some are not willing to put their jobs on the line to change it. Why wouldn't they? Don't they care about the poorer people? Mettler says that even if the submerged state is expanded to the lower and middle class Americans the policies wont get much positive feed back from those who receive it. Also those who stuck their neck out on the line to change those policies wont get recognition for it.

Simply the poorer a person is the less they pay attention to policy change even if it affects them but also even if they did notice it this group of voters are not likely to make campaign contributions to keep them in office.

Mettler makes a good assumption when she said that an attempt to alter or change the submerged state is a great challenge that is a politically high risk venture where the rewards are few. The challengers will meet the reformers quickly and armed for battle while, "their supporters and those of behalf of whom they engage in such struggles are unlikely to even appreciate their efforts not to mention offer assistance."

Another point that my professor brought up that I failed to notice in this article is that those who are receiving loop holes and tax breaks don't see it as a form of government assistance or welfare. They may not realize they are getting welfare because the policies are shrouded in names like subsidies. People who are taking food stamps know they are using welfare but someone who takes a student loan or uses a tax write off may not.

One of Obamas biggest policy changes was direct lending of student loans from the government. Prior to this change banks gave out student loans that were backed by federal government. So if a student defaulted on their loan everyone paid for it through their taxes and paid for it at a higher premium than if it did not go through a third-party lender.

The question I leave you with is, would Americans rather have crappy public policy through regulations instead of just subsidizing? Which in the long run may prove to be cheaper anyways.

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