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Remaking America

Remaking America: Democracy and Public Policy in and Age of Inequality

Joe Soss
Jacob S. Hacker
Suzanne Mettler
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 288
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    Remaking America
    Book Description:

    Over the past three decades, the contours of American social, economic, and political life have changed dramatically. The post-war patterns of broadly distributed economic growth have given way to stark inequalities of income and wealth, the GOP and its allies have gained power and shifted U.S. politics rightward, and the role of government in the lives of Americans has changed fundamentally. Remaking America explores how these trends are related, investigating the complex interactions of economics, politics, and public policy. Remaking America explains how the broad restructuring of government policy has both reflected and propelled major shifts in the character of inequality and democracy in the United States. The contributors explore how recent political and policy changes affect not just the social standing of Americans but also the character of democratic citizenship in the United States today. Lawrence Jacobs shows how partisan politics, public opinion, and interest groups have shaped the evolution of Medicare, but also how Medicare itself restructured health politics in America. Kimberly Morgan explains how highly visible tax policies created an opportunity for conservatives to lead a grassroots tax revolt that ultimately eroded of the revenues needed for social-welfare programs. Deborah Stone explores how new policies have redefined participation in the labor force—as opposed to fulfilling family or civic obligations—as the central criterion of citizenship. Frances Fox Piven explains how low-income women remain creative and vital political actors in an era in which welfare programs increasingly subject them to stringent behavioral requirements and monitoring. Joshua Guetzkow and Bruce Western document the rise of mass incarceration in America and illuminate its unhealthy effects on state social-policy efforts and the civic status of African-American men. For many disadvantaged Americans who used to look to government as a source of opportunity and security, the state has become increasingly paternalistic and punitive. Far from standing alone, their experience reflects a broader set of political victories and policy revolutions that have fundamentally altered American democracy and society. Empirically grounded and theoretically informed, Remaking America connects the dots to provide insight into the remarkable social and political changes of the last three decades.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-510-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Part I Introduction

    • Chapter 1 The New Politics of Inequality: A Policy-Centered Perspective
      (pp. 3-24)
      Jacob S. Hacker, Suzanne Mettler and Joe Soss

      Compared to the generation that grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, Americans coming of age today confront a world of greatly expanded possibilities. The overt forms of discrimination that plagued women and racial minorities since the nation’s founding have now been mostly rendered a thing of the past. The American public has become more tolerant of diversity and more comfortable with group differences. And status in American society is now less closely tied to race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation than it was even a few decades ago.

      Yet this era of new possibilities has also turned out to...

  5. Part II Policies and Institutions in the New Politics of Inequality

    • Chapter 2 Constricting the Welfare State: Tax Policy and the Political Movement Against Government
      (pp. 27-50)
      Kimberly J. Morgan

      The redistributive programs of the welfare state cannot exist without a politically secure and stable source of finance. All public programs have to be paid for by someone, yet people often want more public spending than they are willing to pay for through taxes. The resulting dilemma for policymakers has been to figure out how to raise the necessary funds to pay for the welfare state without antagonizing the public. Some scholars argue that the form of taxation may affect the ability to raise funds, because some kinds of taxes are less visible or irksome to taxpayers than others. In...

    • Chapter 3 Entrepreneurial Litigation: Advocacy Coalitions and Strategies in the Fragmented American Welfare State
      (pp. 51-74)
      R. Shep Melnick

      When the Republican-dominated 104th Congress restructured welfare policies in 1996, it also launched a major assault on welfare litigation. The law that replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with the new Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) virtually shouted “NO INDIVIDUAL ENTITLEMENTS.” This part shall not be interpreted to entitle any individual or family to assistance under any state program funded by this part.” Just to be sure that federal judges got the message, the statute announced that federal eligibility standards “shall not be interpreted to require States to provide assistance toanyindividual foranyperiod of...

  6. Part III Elite Efforts to Reshape the Political Landscape

    • Chapter 4 The Implementation and Evolution of Medicare: The Distributional Effects of “Positive” Policy Feedbacks
      (pp. 77-98)
      Lawrence R. Jacobs

      In the early 1950s, a small group of stalwart reformers concluded that the failure to establish universal access to health insurance under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman required a change in strategy. Passing universal health insurance in one fell swoop was unlikely to succeed, they reasoned, because of the public’s general philosophical uneasiness with “big government” and the mismatch in organized pressure in Congress—the constitutional process created numerous opportunities for delay and obstruction by well-organized narrow interests such as the American Medical Association (AMA) that intensely opposed health reform while reform advocates lacked encompassing organizations to represent and garner...

    • Chapter 5 A Public Transformed? Welfare Reform as Policy Feedback
      (pp. 99-118)
      Joe Soss and Sanford F. Schram

      An old saw in political science, often attributed to E. E. Schattschneider (1935), holds that “new policies create a new politics.” It is an insight lost on few successful politicians. Like good chess players, lawmakers must often “ think two moves ahead” when designing policy. As they gauge how a new policy will affect relevant social problems, they also consider its potential to mobilize or mollify the opposition, create pressures for further action, appease or outrage the party faithful, redistribute political resources, change the terms of debate, and so on. To strategic politicians, policies are not only efforts to achieve...

  7. Part IV Policies and Participation:: The Interplay of Structure and Agency

    • Chapter 6 Universalism, Targeting, and Participation
      (pp. 121-140)
      Andrea Louise Campbell

      Political inequality is one of the defining characteristics of our time. Some groups—the wealthy, the educated, and the organized—participate in politics at much higher rates than others. As a result, they tend to get more of what they want from the government (Campbell 2003a; Hill and Leighley 1992; Martin 2003). This wouldn’t matter if their preferences across issue areas were the same as everyone else’s—but they are not: the highly participatory also tend to have different policy preferences (Verba, Brady, and Schlozman 2004; Verba, Schlozman, and Brady 1995). The result of political inequality is that the vocal...

    • Chapter 7 Institutions and Agents in the Politics of Welfare Cutbacks
      (pp. 141-156)
      Frances Fox Piven

      The idea that welfare-state programs are not only the consequence of politics but that, once created, they are powerful influences on the politics that subsequently shapes the programs is by now familiar. On the one side, social democratic analysts have argued persuasively not only that labor parties and their union allies support welfare-state programs, but also that these programs, when they are structured to build class solidarity, in turn strengthen the working-class formations on which the programs depend. On the other side, American programs, and to a lesser extent the programs of other Anglo countries, are often criticized because they...

  8. Part V The People that Policies Make:: Roles, Identities, and Democracies

    • Chapter 8 Policies of Racial Classification and the Politics of Racial Inequality
      (pp. 159-182)
      Jennifer Hochschild and Vesla Weaver

      In 1890, the United States Census Office reported that the nation contained 6,337,980 Negroes, 956,989 “mulattoes,” 105,135 “quadroons,” and 69,936 “octoroons.”¹ In the early twentieth century it also reported the number of whites of “mixed parentage,” the number of Indians with one-quarter, half, or three-quarters black or white “blood,” and the “races” of Chinese, Japanese, and Hindoo. The boundaries between racial and ethnic groups, and even the definition of race and ethnicity, were blurred and contested. By 1930, however, this ambiguity largely disappeared from the census. Anyone with any “Negro blood” was counted as a Negro; whites no longer had...

    • Chapter 9 Welfare Policy and the Transformation of Care
      (pp. 183-202)
      Deborah Stone

      By 2001, five years after “the end of welfare as we know it,” reports from around the country were triumphal. Rolls had been cut—as much as 90 percent in some states. Millions of people once on the dole were now employed. The war on welfare was succeeding beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. As one of many success stories, the New York Department of Human Services put forward Angel Martinez and Regla Belette, a couple with three children whose five-year time limit on welfare was fast approaching. The state told them they were no longer eligible for assistance and invited them...

  9. Part VI The State’s New Look:: Decentralization, Inequality, and Social Control

    • Chapter 10 The Promise of Progressive Federalism
      (pp. 205-227)
      Richard B. Freeman and Joel Rogers

      American progressives are generally suspicious of federalism and the authority it gives state and local governments to make social and economic policy decisions. They would prefer the country run by a capable national government that supports their political goals. Progressives believe that only national power can lessen inequalities and fear that competition among states leads to reduced labor standards and social expenditures. They know that throughout United States history “states rights” has been associated with the suppression of African Americans in the South and that many of the achievements of twentieth-century American democracy—civil rights, the New Deal, and the...

    • Chapter 11 The Political Consequences of Mass Imprisonment
      (pp. 228-242)
      Joshua Guetzkow and Bruce Western

      With more than 2 million people behind bars and another 4 million under some form of correctional supervision, the scale of imprisonment in the United States is now unequaled in the world. Imprisonment has become a routine life event for the young, low-education, mostly minority men who fill the nation’s prisons and jails. The development of mass imprisonment also involved a significant shift in public resources. By 2001, public spending on prisons and jails totaled $60.3 billion, equal to federal antipoverty spending on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Earned Income Tax Credit. At the state level, prisons and...

  10. Part VII Putting the Pieces Together:: Constructivist and Institutionalist Perspectives

    • Chapter 12 Poverty, Policy, and the Social Construction of Target Groups
      (pp. 245-253)
      Helen Ingram

      Poverty, policy, and the shape of American democracy are related in many, often unexpected, ways. More than forty years after the nation declared a “war on poverty” and passed a multitude of policies aimed at its eradication, poverty persists and has become more intractable. Public policy itself is a significant part of the poverty problem. Not only are these public policies counterproductive, they also distance and alienate the poor from the very political processes that are supposed to remedy social and economic problems.

      The first of the two major accomplishments of this book is to direct attention to the political...

    • Chapter 13 Policy, Politics, and the Rise of Inequality
      (pp. 254-266)
      Paul Pierson

      The chapters in this volume make a compelling case for the benefits of a “policy-centered approach” to social analysis. Central to that case is an appreciation that policy is not just a “product” of the political process—an end result—but a central component of that process. Policies create some of the critical features that structure ongoing political contestation, including the organization and mobilization of groups and the formation of political identities and political agendas.

      In the very long run, moreover, public policies can have a strong influence on the composition of the polity itself. To employ an ecological metaphor,...

  11. Index
    (pp. 267-278)