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One of the goals of the Trump Administration was to reduce the size of the Federal Bureaucracy and the Federal Workforce.  The Administration imposed hiring freezes and has often chose to not replace civil servants who have retired or left for the private sector.  In your view is this a good approach to managing government?  Why or why not?  What are the benefits of reducing the size of the federal workforce? What are the potential drawbacks of having fewer (and less expert) civil servants in office?  Does the benefit outweigh the costs? [You may wish to think about the 5th Risk reading or the article about Biden’s difficulties filling key administration openings].

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According to Michael Lewis’s The 5th Risk, bureaucracies are staffed by experts whose mission is to manage long term policy programs and prevent unlikely but serious policy problems. The politicians who control the bureaucracy (Presidents and Congress) are elected, and have short term incentives to win re-election.  What challenges does this create for the funding and maintenance of programs meant to prevent crises?  In your view, what reforms or educational initiatives (if any) would you recommend to help elected officials and the public understand the need for expert bureaucrats?

According to this recent Pew Research poll, (Links to an external site.) American show high levels of cynicism about government, and display low levels of trust in the federal government.  However, when asked about specific programs Americans often show much more positive opinions of the performance of the federal government (Links to an external site.).  Why do you believe is this the case?  Do you believe this is a problem for American democracy?  Why or why not?

Replies

1. According to this recent Pew Research poll, (Links to an external site.) American show high levels of cynicism about government, and display low levels of trust in the federal government. However, when asked about specific programs Americans often show much more positive opinions of the performance of the federal government (Links to an external site.). Why do you believe is this the case? Do you believe this is a problem for American democracy? Why or why not?

I believe that Americans don’t trust the federal government because of how well off they are financially, and by financially I mean those who aren’t considered in the wealthy class and have to worry about keeping their payment coming for necessities. I think the level of trust comes down to if they are able to keep their jobs and if they have to keep worrying about rent or paying for their children’s education because the federal government can easily take their jobs away and the financial insecurity that was already there grows even more. Given that there are only a few that are not financially insecure, it makes sense why federal government is not as trusted. The suspicion that citizens suspect of the government just comes from what they read and believe in as well as conspiracy theories that get spread around out of nowhere. For example, the covid vaccine created a division between anti-vaxxers and vaccine advocates because of what they believed in. I personally think this is a big problem for American democracy because any wrong thing a politician says will could cause protests or riots in major populated cities.

2. According to this recent Pew Research poll, (Links to an external site.) Americans show high levels of cynicism about government and display low levels of trust in the federal government. However, when asked about specific programs Americans often show much more positive opinions of the performance of the federal government (Links to an external site.). Why do you believe is this the case? Do you believe this is a problem for American democracy? Why or why not?

Americans have different views on the overall bureaucracy and government in different fields for several reasons. First, there is the paradox of preparation, that the bureaucracies sometimes do work to prevent the crisis from happening so that their hard work and success are invisible to the public. In that case, some people may think there are not working hard.

On the other hand, there are pressures for the creation of new government programs when a specific problem rises, for example, the department of homeland security after 911 and Medicaid expansion.

I think this is a problem because when bureaucracy is doing their job, their hard work isn’t rewarded and there can be misunderstandings to them. And that may decrease their passion to work and increase people’s unsatisfactory with the government.

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