Essay: Public Policy Themes Public Policy Creation

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¶ … Public Policy Themes

Public policy creation and study is a complex process that contains a variety of different perspectives and considerations, some practical and others less so. Ultimately, even the more political and seemingly impractical elements of public policy must be dealt with in a practical and pragmatic fashion, however; though certain themes in public policy reflect more about personal and subjective interests and desires than they do direct, actionable, and ideal goals for the public at large, accomplishing anything in public policy means finding a diplomatic balance that appeases the louder of the more subjective public elements. Understanding certain of the themes currently observed in public policy discussions can lead to a more effective development of public policy on directly practical and political terms.

One of the most pragmatic yet idealized themes in public policy is the sentiment that government should be run like a business. This theme implies several things about the perspective that should be brought to public policy study, discussion, and creation, may of which are directly and explicitly practical. One of the simplest yet most meaningful interpretations of this perspective is to see governments and government agencies as needing to work with the same capital restraints as bottom-line attention as a business: spending money before revenue is obtained or even secured is common for many governments, yet is impossible for a business for any length of time. If governments were run more like businesses, more realistic revenue streams and service programs would be established than are currently in existence for many government entities, with less waste and even potential for corruption.

This speaks directly to another interpretation of the "government as business" theme," and touches on other current themes in public policy as well. Businesses serve stakeholders, including owners and consumers, and when it comes to governments the citizens are both owners and consumers. Governments must maximize the benefits to their stakeholders in the most efficient manner possible just like businesses, yet while this means profits for businesses it means serving the public interest for governments. It is here that the parallels of the first theme fade away, however, and the theme of serving the public interest takes over. The public interest is not served by short-term gains at the expense of long-term stability, which can serve certain businesses well; serving the public interest involves balancing short-term sacrifice with ongoing stability and long-term service provision.

Some themes of public policy have been brought even more firmly to the foreground in the recent years of economic turmoil and recession. "Focus on basic services" is a mantra of certain policy makers and taxpayer advocates alike, and this theme also resonates with and complicates other identified themes and goals. Basic service provision is very much a short-term goal, and while it is unquestionably the most necessary element of public policy -- if the basic services of infrastructure, emergency services, etc. cannot be provided, there won't be an environment where anything else can be accomplished -- this cannot be the sole focus of policy. Ensuring basic service provision before developing and implementing plans that enable growth and long-term stability must be accomplished.

It is in circumstances such as these that the less directly practical and more political elements of public policy come into play. Demonstrating a strong focus on basic services while more quietly creating longer term plans, not in a way that reduces transparency but in a manner the calls less attention to itself is often necessary; even when such planning is in the public interest and is both practically and ethically warranted, not all elements of society will always agree on this point. Other highly politicized concerns, such as taxation, also call for highly politicized action in order to achieve the practical ends of serving the public interest with efficiency and effectiveness. Current calls for a cessation of any new taxes or tax increases do not reflect a truly pragmatic view of a situation in which spending -- for the federal as well as many other governments -- vastly outstrips revenue. Though spending cuts can reduce this imbalance, revenue increases will almost certainly be a part of the solution as well. Successful public policy creation in such periods must consist of creating revenue increases in a manner that reduces their appearance as taxes in the strict sense, appeasing political themes in the current debates while accomplishing the long-running practical aims of public policy.

Any word or phrase can become politicized, and any concept or action in public policy is liable to be interpreted in a political manner by certain parties. One of the keys to public policy is balancing the practical and the political implications of the various themes involved in the study and creation of public policy. These implications can be far reaching and complex, but are well worth pursuing to their pragmatic conclusions.

Section II: User Fees for Certain Municipal Services

While taxation -- typically through a sales tax -- is the most common source of revenue for a municipality and the manner in which it funds the bulk of its activities and service provisions, some services ought to be paid for directly through user fees for reasons of efficiency and fairness. Basic utilities are a prime example of such a service provided on a user-fee basis by most municipalities or other local governments for both of these reasons. Though it is the government's responsibility to set up and maintain the production facilities and the provision infrastructure for services like electricity and water, simply paying for these services out of general tax funds would place an unfair burden on businesses and residences that used little in the way of utilities, while allowing major consumers to avoid full payment for what they use. Instead, fees are (typically) assessed on set basis per unit of usage, with billing and collection accomplished via mail and increasingly via Internet means. Costs for this collection are minimal, metering is accomplished with equally minimal expenses, and subsidies or special rates for low-income individuals can be easily made available in order to accommodate various abilities to pay.

Many municipalities operate certain recreational facilities that require large amounts of maintenance, labor, and liability coverage, such as swimming pools and skating rinks. Again, these are typically built and maintained with the use of general revenue and are often operated under subsidies or partial funding from general revenues, but there is also a user fee associated with these services as well. The rationale here is the same as it is for the sue of facilities; the use of these services is highly varied amongst community members, with some deriving enormous benefit from the services and some deriving no benefit whatsoever. It would be unfair to spread the cost of these services equally across all individuals, and it would also be inefficient to do so -- revenues received from the user fees can be directly used to determine the amount of funds that should be allocated to these facilities, the amount of public good that these facilities create, and the overall actual cost-per-person of the facilities when balanced with revenues. With the collection of user fees at such facilities taking place on-site at the time of use, costs and resources required for the collection are very low and the overall efficiency of such funding is quite high.

Publicly operated parking structures or even metered street parking spaces represent yet another municipal service paid for via user fees. Once again, the rationale for this comes from the highly variable use of this service or resource by different members of the community, and again, the collection and administration of these fees is direct and virtually instantaneous. With the advent of more affordable wireless communication, many municipalities now employ meter devices that can process credit and debit card payments that allow for payment processing without the need for any labor resources to be devoted the collection of physical currency, making the fee collection even more efficient. Individuals are charged per allotment of time that they utilize the parking space, tying usage directly to the fees, which are then (typically) applied to road maintenance and other public infrastructure issues that support car travel and business or that subsidize public transportation to allow for more efficient transportation generally. This amounts to redistribution based on the use of resources.

Section III: The Policymaking Process

Policymaking can seem relatively straightforward at first glance, and in fact the process of making public policy can be broken down into only four basic steps, similar to many other processes and project cycles. An examination of each of the steps in the policymaking process, however, reveals that this undertaking is more complex and more fraught with potentials for conflict than this surface understanding suggests. From the number of players involved in policymaking and their varied perspectives and values, to the practical concerns and constraints that limit capabilities in every step of the policymaking process, the creation of public policy is hardly as straightforward or as… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Public Policy Themes Public Policy Creation.  (2011, October 15).  Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/public-policy-themes/4422461

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"Public Policy Themes Public Policy Creation."  Essaytown.com.  October 15, 2011.  Accessed July 23, 2019.
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