Public Policy Influences

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Public Policy Influences
Learning Team B: Preston Johnson, Stephanie Johnson and Douglas Morrison POL/443
Sherry Wood, JD
December 02, 2010

Public Policy Influences

According to G. William Domhoff, “the corporate community’s ability to transform its economic power into policy influence and political access makes it the most important influence on the federal government”(Domhoff, p.xiii). This paper will examine the influence that corporate community and other social forces have on two specific public policy issues: defense spending and organized labor.

Summary of Issues

Defense spending has been a controversial issue for many years in this country and has resulted in numerous attempts to influence the general public along with the government. An attempt to influence the general public took place in the mid-1970s, when the Committee on the Present Danger portrayed the ability of the United States to defend itself against foreign threats to be in a state of crisis. Their claim at that point was that government estimates of Soviet defense spending, military capability were far too low, and that defense spending in the United States should increased accordingly (Domhoff, 2010, p. 121). In reality, these were false claims, put forth for the sole purpose of swaying public opinion.

A similar situation exists today with threats of reduced defense spending next year causing several defense contractors to lay off personnel in anticipation of much smaller budgets than are currently in place. Threats of reduced defense budgets have caused groups such as the Heritage Foundation to go on a publicity campaign reminiscent of the 1970s. In a report dated February 22, 2010, Baker Spring writes: “The Obama Administration has proposed an FY 2011 defense budget that is inconsistent with U.S. security commitments and the Administration's own Quadrennial Defense Review. Under the Administration's current budget outline, total defense spending would decline from $722.1 billion (4.9 percent of GDP) in FY 2010 to $698.2 billion (3.6 percent) in FY 2015. Inadequate funding will lead to shortfalls in manpower levels, modernization, operational capacity, strategy, and/or force structure, thereby exposing the American people and U.S. friends and allies to an unacceptable level of risk”(Spring, 2010). In contrast to this position, however, is the opinion of much of the general public and of President Obama himself that government contractors have been guilty of waste and excess over the years, and that reform is urgently needed. Obama indicated in a Reuters article dated February 1, 2010, that, while he was recommending that Congress approve $708 billion in defense spending for 2011, he would continue his drive to eliminate unnecessary, wasteful weapons programs (reuters.com). Both sides of the defense spending issue feel equally strongly about their cause, and both are trying to influence public opinion via the media.

Another public policy issue that generates a lot of debate is that of organized labor. There are many who believe that labor unions served a useful purpose in the early years of corporations in this country, but that their time has come and gone. Others believe fervently that without the assistance of labor unions, American workers will be exploited and treated unfairly. According to the text, Who Rules America, the percent of public employees who are in unions rose from 10.8 percent in 1960 to a peak of 40.2 percent in 1976 and has stabilized at approximately 36 percent since that time (Dumhoff, p. 96). Organized labor ties in strongly with defense spending, as many conservatives will argue that one of the main reasons the cost of defense is so high is that the labor unions drive the costs up. Most of the larger defense contractors do have labor unions; thus it understandable that this argument could be made. Just as with the issue of defense spending, there has been a lot...
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