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The Politics of Policy Change

The Politics of Policy Change: Welfare, Medicare, and Social Security Reform in the United States

Daniel Béland
Alex Waddan
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 240
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    The Politics of Policy Change
    Book Description:

    For generations, debating the expansion or contraction of the American welfare state has produced some of the nation's most heated legislative battles. Attempting social policy reform is both risky and complicated, especially when it involves dealing with powerful vested interests, sharp ideological disagreements, and a nervous public. The Politics of Policy Change compares and contrasts recent developments in three major federal policy areas in the United States: welfare, Medicare, and Social Security. Daniel Béland and Alex Waddan argue that we should pay close attention to the role of ideas when explaining the motivations for, and obstacles to, policy change. This insightful book concentrates on three cases of social policy reform (or attempted reform) that took place during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Béland and Waddan further employ their framework to help explain the meaning of the 2010 health insurance reform and other developments that have taken place during the Obama presidency. The result is a book that will improve our understanding of the politics of policy change in contemporary federal politics.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-889-1
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction (pp. 1-23)

    Since the New Deal, social policy reform has remained a key and controversial aspect of federal politics. The sheer scope of the major federal programs created since the 1930s makes it inevitable that policymakers will revisit these programs because they are so central to American social and economic life. In turn, this means that social policy developments have a direct impact on American politics as political actors position themselves as being in support of, or in opposition to, particular programs. Today, programs such as Medicare and Social Security, which have enormous fiscal and political weight, are subject to intense scrutiny...

  5. Chapter One Welfare Reform, 1996 (pp. 24-73)

    In August 1996 President Bill Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). This legislation ended the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) welfare entitlement program for poor, single-parent families and replaced it with a new conditional benefit named Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). As suggested by its title, TANF is a time-constrained benefit with most welfare recipients restricted to a five-year lifetime limit on receipt of federal welfare benefits. PRWORA also imposed new work requirements on those receiving TANF that were significantly tougher than existing arrangements. Hence, welfare policy stands in contrast...

  6. Chapter Two Medicare Reform, 2003 (pp. 74-124)

    After Social Security, Medicare is the second-most expensive public social policy program in the United States. In 2006 Social Security paid out $548.5 billion in benefits, amounting to 20.65 percent of federal expenditures, whereas Medicare spending was $329.9 billion, accounting for 12.4 percent of federal expenditures (US Census Bureau 2009a). Like Social Security, Medicare is highly popular and primarily serves the country’s seniors, although it also covers the disabled. In 2007 there were 36,155,452 Medicare beneficiaries, amounting to 12 percent of the population (Kaiser Family Foundation 2009). This gives Medicare a large base of beneficiaries, making it a program that...

  7. Chapter Three The Failed Attempt at Social Security Privatization, 2005 (pp. 125-166)

    Social Security is the largest and one of the most popular social programs in the United States. Expanded during the postwar era, the program faced significant short-term fiscal challenges from the mid-1970s to the enactment of the 1983 amendments to the Social Security Act. Although the 1983 reform helped improve the program’s fiscal situation, demographic challenges lie ahead as the baby boomers retire, and confidence in the future of Social Security remains low. For more than three decades beginning in the 1970s a growing number of experts and political actors have advocated significant changes in the way Social Security works....

  8. Conclusion (pp. 167-178)

    This book has explored the politics of policy change in the federal welfare state through the analysis of three major policy episodes and, where relevant, subsequent developments: the 1996 welfare reform, the 2003 Medicare reform, and the 2005 push for Social Security privatization. The analysis presented of these three cases illustrates the main argument of this book, which is that paying systematic attention to ideas is necessary to explain both sharp and incremental policy change. Beyond the claim that “ideas matter,” this book has formulated and applied an integrated framework that explains both how and why ideas matter in policy...

  9. References (pp. 179-212)
  10. Index (pp. 213-223)