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Components of the Policy Formation Process In each of the three case studies, a number of observable factors helped influence the policy outcome. From our analysis we conclude that these components can be grouped into the following six general categories: 1. Contextual factors, including those social, economic, demographic, political, and ideological factors, that shape the overall context of federal decision making at any given point in time. 2. Constituency activities, including direct and indirect pressure, exerted by both organized and unorganized constituencies outside the federal government. 3. Principles and ideas that shape a participant's vision or policy goal. 4. Actors and institutions, including those that participate directly in the federal decision-making process in the legislature, executive, and judicial branches of government. 5. Media presentations, including television, radio, and the popular print media such as newspapers and magazines. 6. Research, including knowledge-building, problem- exploring, policy-forming, and program-directing studies that are introduced into the policy process to support or refute the position of program proponents and or opponents. Each case is in effect a narrative that describes how these components contribute, both individually and inter- actively, to policy formation. In this chapter we discuss these components as they are manifest throughout the cases in order to identify some of the salient forces shaping federal policy toward children and their families. 38
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39 CONTEXTUAL FACTORS Although the cases touch on events dating back to the New Deal, all three deal principally with events that occurred between the late 1960s and the late 1970s. During this period there were several important changes in the social, economic, demographic, political, and ideological factors that shaped the overall context of federal decision making affecting children. Inflation surged and unemployment increased. The birthrate slowed, and a growing number of American women, particularly those with children under the age of 18, entered the labor force. The civil rights movement and the war on poverty blossomed as liberals advocated social reform and the broadened participation of minorities, especially blacks, in the political process. And the United States engaged in a prolonged and unpopular war in Southeast Asia. The influence of these changes can be observed in the cases, sometimes as direct effects but more often they are mediated through other components in the process. Hence, we observe, for example, that the increasing labor force participation of women and the growth of single- parent families influenced the liberalization of the child care tax credit and the growth of child care programs. Similarly, we note that the rapid economic expansion of the 1960s directly influenced the growth of social programs and federal spending. Conversely, sluggish growth and high inflation in the 1970s had the opposite effect on the enactment of new programs. As an indirect influence, the increasing entry of women into the labor force created a broader constituency with a stake in policies benefiting working women, particularly child care assistance. Accordingly, this demographic change was reflected in political advocacy, media atten- tion, and the shift in traditional beliefs about a woman's role. Similarly, declining dairy prices in the 1950s created pressure on Congress by farm interest groups for a new domestic program. In addition to the social, demographic, and economic contexts, prevalent social values and beliefs also play a significant role. In all three cases, we observed, and sought in some instances to measure through public opinion surveys, the power of values and beliefs in molding policy. In most situations, these beliefs are manifest through other components of the policy formation process: constituency pressure, media events, research, and the perceptions of key actors. Thus, for example, hunger,
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40 especially among pregnant women and infants, was regarded as unacceptable in the midst of American affluence. On the Senate floor, Humphrey's photographic display of the effects of malnutrition on infants touched a humanitarian chord and was undoubtedly crucial to the passage of WIC. Support of WIC was classified more than once as a "Mom and apple pie" political issue because of its target population. Beliefs and values were equally potent in the child care tax deduction/credit case. Beliefs about a woman's proper place consistently restrained congressional liberalization of the child ware tax d~dll~ti~n farina the 1950s and 1960s. Socioeconomic change (women entering the work force) slowly altered this belief and ultimately led to the passage and liberalization of the deduction itself. The long-standing debate over the appropriate role of government in the lives of children was a central element involved in the Federal Interagency Day Care Requirements. Although the obligation of government to protect children from exploitive labor practices, fire hazards, physical abuse, and the like has become an accepted principle, federal intervention to ensure children's cognitive development is more controversial. Supporters of the child development research community and public day care providers contend that the public obligation to protect children extends to measures designed to enhance their healthy growth and education. Critics, particularly among fiscal conservatives and proprietary day care providers, argue that such intervention threatens to undermine the role of parents in childrearing and the free market in social service delivery. Finally, political factors incumbent on government structures also shape the context of federal policy making toward children. Legislation rests with Congress, enforcement with the executive branch, and adjudication with the judicial branch. Specifically in the cases we examined, the fact that Senate bills, unlike House measures, are usually open to floor amendments helps explain why the original WIC measure and several efforts to liberalize the child care tax credit were initiated in the Senate. Liberal members were able to circumvent conservative committees and bring their measures before the entire Senate. Similar actions were not possible in the House. The fact that HEW promulgated the 1968 day care requirements without OMB's approval, while OMB blocked the less stringent 1972 requirements, was due to
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41 a change in administrative procedures. In 1968, OMB (then the Bureau of the Budget) could not review agency regulations; by 1972 it could. Similarly, the role of the judiciary is a significant structural factor. During the late 1960s and 1970s the courts adapted a more activist posture in mediating disputes within and between the other branches of government. Court rulings, for example, were crucial in the expansion of the WIC program. In another era the judiciary might have been less inclined to interfere in a conflict between Congress and the executive branch. To summarize, we understand these factors to be contextual by virtue of the fact that they establish the settings in which other components interact in policy making. It is to these other components that we now turn. CONSTITUENCY PRESSURE Constituency pressure is at once one of the most obvious and most difficult variables to identify. It often takes elusive forms, such as letters, informal meetings with policy makers, and public opinion polls, as well as the more orchestrated, organized lobbying efforts of interest and advocacy groups. Most instances of constituency pressure in the three cases examined here involved organized groups, such as the Children's Defense Fund, the AFL-CIO, and FRAC. We also encountered some instances of unorganized pressure, such as letters from constituents and public opinion polls. Overall, we observe that the nature and influence of constituency pressure varies at different points in policy formation. Even when it is not an obvious component of policy making, constituency pressure remains a significant backdrop. As we have noted, it is often the medium through which changes in contextual factors, for example, social, economic, or political events, affect the policy process. In several respects, constituency pressure has the characteristics of a contextual factor: it is a constant, diffuse, and largely uncontrollable force (by policy makers) in policy formation. Unorganized constituency pressure appears most frequently at the point in the policy process at which a problem is defined: letters to Congress on tax problems, public outrage at widespread hunger in America, or public opinion of expanding welfare rolls. We interpret it as a reflection of the role of public opinion in the identifi
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42 cation of social conditions as social problems. For example, until women's employment outside the home was perceived as appropriate, the problems of dual-earner families were not recognized as legitimate concerns of public policy. Unorganized pressure appears less frequently than organized pressure when a specific policy is being formulated. Thus, for example, public opinion supported aid to hungry children, but the Community Nutrition ensue suggested the specific programmatic form that such an initiative might take. ~ ~~ ~, . , ~ We interpret this as an expression ot the need for concrete policy proposals by legislative and executive branch policy makers at that stage in the process rather than an abstract sense of a social problem requiring a government response. In general, organized constituencies are better able to marshal! the necessary forces and propose concrete initiatives than are unorganized constituencies. When a policy is being debated and enacted, both organized and unorganized constituency pressures appear to affect the policy process. Of pressure have a suecif in initiative focused on a , At this stage, both types _ _, ~ problem that they can support or oppose. Hence, for example, once designed, WIC drew on diffuse public opinion favoring such a programmatic approach as well as direct support by organized groups. For changes to be successfully promoted while a program is operating and expanding, reforms must be proposed in specific terms. Organized constituencies, therefore, tend to be involved more frequently than unorganized ones. It was an organized group, FRAC, that brought suit against the USDA to change their handling of WIC program operations. There were several configurations of interests from the first food assistance programs. In the 1930s, farm interests pressured Congress to relieve their problem of surplus commodities. Part of the attempt to resolve this problem resulted in the food assistance programs. The existence of the program created in Congress and among outside interests an alliance between rural representa- tives and the school constituency: federal aid to farmers in return for federal food assistance to school children. Within this alliance the farm interest dominated program- matic initiatives until the 1960s. In that decade the Democratic-liberal-activist coalition of the Great Society seized the initiative from farm interests and educators. An antihunger, antipoverty coalition emerged that relied
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43 heavily on public sentiments and media presentations. Support for WIC itself came from advocacy groups such as the Children's Foundation and Community Nutrition Institute as well as local free clinics in the states. Producer interests became much less pronounced, with the exception of the infant formula companies. Nonetheless, it should be noted that WIC's initial passage and early extension depended on its status as an amendment to the multibillion-dollar child nutrition bills. These bills commanded support from powerful education interests throughout the nation. The conflict over the Federal Interagency Day Care Requirements displayed no consistent alignment of interests in opposition. In support of the requirements were the various children's advocacy groups. The opposi- tion tended to come chiefly from the executive agencies. Only when there was the threat of enforcement in 1976 under Title XX did interest groups express strong opposi- tion to the regulations. The requirements have been employed by interest groups as vehicles to other ends: more employment opportunities in day care, revising welfare policy, increasing government spending on day care, and reducing categorical programs. Constituency pressures were often expressions of other conflicts that happened to touch on the requirements in a particular context. We observe this symbolic use of the Federal Interagency Day Care Requirements more than once in our case study. They were originally mandated by members of Congress opposed to the WIN program. Unenforced, they lay quietly until the day care proposal of FAP led to a demand for more realistic requirements. In 1972, Edward Zigler, director of the Office of Child Development, responded with a revised version. Zigler's revision was buried amidst the advocacy groups' opposition to all Nixon administration initiatives and their emotional attachment to the 1968 version of federal day care standards. Revived once more in negotiations over Title XX, the requirements again became hostage to several strategies, including the promotion of workfare, the increase of day care funds, the decrease of Title XX funds, and enforce- ment of the day care requirements. The backlash created by organized interests was sufficient to destroy the requirements. Thus, constituency pressures focused on the shape of the day care requirements as a manifestation of the larger issue of federal responsibility for the well-being of children.
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44 In the case of the child care tax deduction/credit, constituency pressure demonstrated steady support for the provision. Since it was first proposed in Congress, organized interests uniformly supported it. This support came from both employee and employer organizations, although it was not a major goal of either. Not until the late 1960s did any organized groups, such as the National Organization for Women, make the tax deduction/ credit a major goal. In the 1960s, organizations promul- gating the rights of women included the tax system in their overall effort to end discrimination against women. Still, congressional liberalization of the tax credit for child care resulted from more than the growth of the women's movement. By the time the movement became signif icant politically, the rapid increase in the labor force participation of women had discouraged prevalent biases against working mothers. Accordingly, the opposing forces shifted after the 1963 revision. The issue of liberaliza tion became less of a contest over a woman's proper place and more an issue of tax equity versus tax structure- political logrolling versus revenue loss. As with the contextual factors, it is difficult to separate constitu ency pressure from the other components at work in the process. They continually interact. PRINCIPLES AND IDEAS One component that appears significant in all three cases is what we have called "vision"--a unique combination of idea and principle that serves as a participant's policy goal. We were consistently impressed by the powerful role of vision in policy making. The principal architects of WIC envisioned a food assistance program for pregnant women and infants. They convinced Senator Hubert Humphrey of the idea's merit. Losing in committee, Humphrey played eloquently to the Senate with images of suffering children and the simple act by which Congress could relieve them. Victorious in Congress, WIC's architects had anticipated administration opposition and the subsequent litigation. The law was therefore written to maximize the probability of success. Aided by FRAC, which also envisioned the program as a major federal food assistance effort, WIC's supporters managed to obtain court decisions ensuring its rapid expansion. Supporters even anticipated USDA and OMB behavior and won a court order that turned agency ploys to the program's advantage. They succeeded in
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45 expanding a $20-million pilot into a $750-million entitle- ment program in 5 years. In the Federal Interagency Day Care Requirements we observe conflicting vision in policy formation. For proponents the regulations had an emotional, symbolic character, reflecting a long tradition in social work. The requirements represented an optimal goal that, with time and struggle, would one day be realized for all needy children. Opponents approached the requirements in more pragmatic ways: Were they enforceable, affordable, necessary' More interest-laden issues such as social services costs, welfare rolls, employment, and revenue allocation often established the context in which the debate resurfaced. Resolution of these issues, however, rarely depended on settling questions concerning the requirements themselves. Indeed, on more than one occasion, decisions concerning the proposal for FAP, the WIN program, and Title XX services brought about a de facto settlement of the controversy by postponing or resubmerging it in bureaucratic procedures. Two general observations can be made concerning the role of vision in the case of the day care requirements. First, the attempt to embody the ideas of the child development research community in the regulations could not overcome or undo policies determined by substantive interests, primarily those of the states and proprietary providers. Vision, unsupported by interests, was unable to overcome these obstructions. Second, apart from the requirements themselves, the case study offers evidence that policy making is more than a series of incremental responses to interest group demands--that vision is indeed relevant. The creation of Title XX is an excellent example of policy makers con- fronting a serious problem--the social service stalemate-- with an imaginative solution. Building vision on inter- ests, the assistant secretary for planning and evaluation in HEW was able to break the deadlock and broach a new approach to social service funding. Though unsuccessful, the proposal for FAP represents a similar blend of imagin- ation and interests in its approach to a guaranteed income. A vision that comprehends interests is a potent factor in the formation of policy. It appears most effective when the ordinary mechanisms of incremental change through political brokering prove incapable of resolving conflicts among various interests. In the child care tax deduction/credit case we also observe vision presented in the form of a principle in
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46 . conflict: tax equity versus the integrity of the revenue system. Regardless of its legal definition, in the policy formation process, tax equity is a principle accorded substance by the alignment of political forces. Decisions concerning the distribution of the tax burden reflect the political pressures that various constituencies can bring to bear on Congress. Operationally, maintaining the integrity of the tax structure is the ideological safe- guard against tax provisions that threaten to seriously deplete revenue collections. Policy determination is thus a function of the interplay between the political benefits of appeasing constituent demands for lower taxes and the responsibility of lawmakers to ensure adequate revenues to operate the government. The liberalization of the child care tax deduction/ credit in the 1970s reflected the increasing political pressure to reduce taxes and to make the tax code more equitable. This liberalization was aided by the departure of Representative Wilbur Mills--the unequaled congres- sional guardian of the tax structure. Once Mills departed, the more equity-prone decision-making process in the Senate approved an increase in the benefits of the child care tax deduction/credit. The check of the House Ways and Means Committee became less effective as its own decision-making process became more open following Mills's departure. In the executive branch, responsibility for maintaining the structural integrity of the tax system resides in the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Alone, however, Treasury was incapable of sustaining opposition to proponents of liberalization. The result was a steady growth in the size of the tax benefits and number of beneficiaries from the child care tax deduction/credit. We observe that both vision and interest are signifi- cant in policy formation. Principle without interest seems impotent; interest without principle appears self- serving and manipulative. Although we hesitate to assign a primary role to either, we do note that vision has appeared dominant in the cases we examined. In the case of the Federal Interagency Day Care Requirements, vision that failed to account for prevailing interests proved incapable of realization. Successful vision, like that underlying the WIC program, is linked in some significant way to interests, and its power is enhanced by that linkage. Indeed, the most effective vision appears to be that which imagines the possible without forgetting the necessary.
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47 ACTORS AND INSTITUTIONS Key government participants appear at each stage in the policy formation process. Individuals and groups, who hold beliefs, seek changes, respond to others, and make decisions, shape policy. In each case study we discovered one or more key participants striving to realize a vision--some more successfully than others. Hubert Humphrey and his staff were able to bring the WIC program into being. Senate passage was in large measure a result of Humphrey's elan on the floor after defeat in committee. WIC's growth was fueled by advocates who used the courts, constituencies, and visceral appeals to create an effec- tive lever against the USDA and the OMB. In the case of the Federal Interagency Day Care Requirements, the cast changed several times as the policy debate moved in and out of the agencies and Congress. Many of the principal government participants in 1968 were replaced by new personalities in subsequent debates over revisions. Jule Sugarman, a principal in the 1968 requirements, did not participate in the 1972 revision or the 1975 Title XX controversy. In contrast, Edward Zigler, a principal in 1972, continued as a private a~v~rnm~nt-service advocate after he left government. Indeed, we find that some actors shift their roles over time but remain, in some capacity, participants in the policy process. This observation is more complicated than the revolving-door notion of government-to-private-sector-to ~ . We see in these role changes the opportunity of advocates to promote continuity in policy making that is typically attributed only to career civil servants. For example, in the case of the WIC program, Rodney Leonard's efforts to promote food assistance to special target groups did not cease when he left the USDA. He persisted in promoting such programs and with the help of others succeeded in establishing WIC. Participants are themselves frequently the agents of continuity in policy formation. Institutions, too, represent actors of a sort. They exhibit certain general characteristics and behavioral patterns. Perhaps the most vivid display of institutional behavior patterns is the USDA and OMB response to the WIC program. Both executive agencies opposed the program during its early years of existence. The USDA believed target feeding to be ineffective and disliked the medical requirements of the program. The OMB believed WIC to be too costly, too rapidly expanding, and basically "bad"
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48 public policy. Both agencies sought to persuade Congress of their positions and, failing in that, both used their institutional resources to create delays and impoundments to restrain program growth. It would be a gross understatement to suggest that their tactics were ineffective; rather, they served to expand WIC at many times the rate its congressional and private proponents had dared to hope. Because court decisions changed the character of the policy debate, these institutions, particularly OMB, were unable to respond effectively. As a practical matter, rapid expenditure of all program funds was the most effective means of restraining program growth. In WIC's case, the usual executive weapons against program growth, impound- ment and delay, produced results that were antithetical to the institutional goals of restraint in spending. In addition to general behavior patterns, institutions establish a context in which policy making takes place. As noted above, the role of an institution determines to a large extent where, how, and in what capacity an actor can participate in the policy formation process. The functional division among the three branches of government limits the power of any single participant to formulate, legislate, and execute policy changes. Less obvious is the administrator who uses his or her power to write regulations in order to control a program's development. Such an individual may hold a relatively subordinate decision-making role but through the form and content of regulations can exert an influence on a program greater than that of Congress or the President. An OMB budget examiner's power to change a program's direction may be limited to impounding funds, even if spending is not what the examiner wants to see changed. The President may not be able to effect a policy initiative without convincing Congress and the bureaucracy of its worth. The "iron triangle" is a metaphor for the power of institutions and institutional actors in policy making: congressional committees, executive branch agency heads, and interest groups. Our cases reveal that these insti- tutions are not monolithic, nor do they function in the same way from case to case. The committee structure results in a wide distribution of policy-making power in Congress: authorizing committees, appropriations commit- tees, and revenue committees. Each must endorse a social service program in order for it to be established. An executive branch agency must take responsibility for its implementation. Other policies, such as tax cuts, can be
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49 accomplished in one committee of each house of Congress. Within an executive department the administering agency must clear its regulations with the general counsel and the assistant secretary to have them promulgated. Where one stands may indeed be determined by where one sits and, as the cases reveal, there are quite a few seats in each institutional setting. MEDIA PRESENTATIONS We identified in the case studies several examples of media presentations that influenced the policy formation process, including television, newspapers, and popular magazines and journals. (We do not include scientific research journals in this category.) Media presentations can affect the conception, debate, and expansion of a policy. Moreover, their influence on policy formation frequently felt at later stages in the policy process as well as when a policy initiative is introduced. A CBS documentary on hunger, for example, helped define mal- nutrition as a serious problem. It also galvanized public opinion and facilitated the expansion of food assistance programs in the 1970s. The response elicited by a media presentation appears crucial to its influence on policy formation. Respondents the public and policy makers. Policy makers are, of course, the key respond- ents, since they in fact initiate policy proposals. Their response, however, can be direct--evoked by the presentation itself--or indirect--evoked by Public reactions to the presentation. fall into one of two audiences: - , A New Republic article crze~c~z~ng wit, tor example, reached the President's desk in summary form; Carter responded to it directly. On the other hand, the Red boo k article on WIC elicited 200 letters from citizens to the USDA. In this instance the media presentation was indirectly influential. In our three case studies, media presentations served to define social conditions as social problems. They helped to frame issues for the political agenda. Pre- sented in graphic form to millions of viewers, hunger became an emotional national issue. A working woman complaining of tax inequalities became symbolic of social changes when she aired her grievances on a television news program or in a newpaper's editorial pages. Furthermore, at times, media presentations can be very specific in affirming (or condemning) a program or policy initiative.
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50 . The Redbook article on WIC, for example, urged readers to write to the USDA and demand that the agency implement the supplemental food program. Similarly, a newspaper column complained of the exclusion of payments to rela- tives as tax deductible child care expenses. Both articles influenced policy formation. Despite their influence in framing problems and issues, however, we observed no instances of a specific policy or program initiative's being conceived by the media. Vision and constituency pressure seem to intervene in the policy process even if the principal instigation is a media presentation. Hunger was a media issue, but the food stamp, supplemental food, and WIC programs were designed by policy makers. Again, there is a constant interaction between media and other components of policy formation. RESEARCH We observed in the three cases numerous instances of research and analysis playing a role in decision making. Research can be categorized as knowledge-building (con- tributing to fundamental understanding of social and behavioral processes), problem-exploring (contributing to the definition of social problems), policy-forming (con- tributing to the formulation of policies to address specific social problems), and program-directing (contrib- uting to the design and improvement of established programs).* Each can have a different kind of influence on policy making. Knowledge-building and problem- exploring research, for example, is most often influential in defining a problem or providing supporting justifica- tion for the initiation of a policy proposal. Policy- forming research is similarly influential at the stage at which a social problem is recognized and alternative policy proposals are under consideration or when a particular policy initiative is being conceived. Program- directing research usually has its greatest impact when specific programs are being designed or refined. In the case studies we confined our collection of data and analysis of the impact of research to that which was relevant to the policy formation process in each case. We did not examine or cite studies that were not part of *This typology is drawn from the National Research Council's Study Project on Social Research and Development (1978).
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51 the documented history of the particular policy formation process. Although we observed several instances in which the results of research did not accord with the thrust of a policy initiative, all of the studies cited in our cases played some role in the decision-making process. Our first observation on the role of research is that no single type of research appears to be inevitably influential on policy. We have an example of knowledge- building research on brain development and nutrition that was extremely influential in the WIC oroqram's initiation, debate, and expansion. _ There appear to be mediating events in this instance, however. The Johns Hopkins and St. Jude's nutrition projects for pregnant women demon- strated to policy makers how research on neurophysio- loqical development could be employed to deal with a social problem. After WIC's conception, this body of basic research remained a significant justification for the enactment and eventual expansion of the program. Two examples of program-directing research, the Call study of the pilot voucher program and the USDA'S study of the WIC program's delivery costs, had an influence on decision making. For a period of time they successfully supported opponents of the program's expansion. Research can thus affirm or deny the policy initiative and still have significant impact on the policy formation process. On the relation of timing to influence, we note several examples of research having an impact at different points during the policy formation process. The more exploratory the research is, the more far-reaching its potential influence on the policy process. ~ . . . Conversely, the more directed toward specific programs the research is, the less applicable it is to contexts other than the operation and expansion of the particular program or immediate decision. Thus, even if program-directing research is more likely to directly influence policy operation and expansion, it seems less likely to influence decision making related to the formation of any other policy. Similarly, the more directly focused a piece of research or analysis is on the operation of a particular program or decision, the more crucial its timing becomes. Hence, the Urban Institute Is evaluation of the WIC delivery system had relatively little impact because it was intro- duced in the policy process after crucial decisions concerning the program's expansion had already been made. The conflict between research studies related to WIC's program operation and those related to its medical ~usti- fication illustrates the interaction of research with
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l 52 other components in policy formation. Generally speaking, opponents of target-specific food assistance resided principally in the USDA and the OMB. Although they did not deny the medical evidence linking proper nutrition to healthy infant development, they pointed to the two evaluations of target-specific delivery systems (by Call and the Urban Institute) as evidence of programmatic ineffectiveness. Whatever its theoretical merits, they argued that food assistance could not effectively be made target-specific. In large measure the UDSA's determina- tion stemmed from the overall administration policy of replacing all direct food distribution programs with food stamps and, ultimately, a unified, income-based welfare system. Moreover, the administration sought to extricate the USDA from programs with expensive delivery systems. Within the department there was a general resistance to taking on any new food assistance programs since those already under way were dramatically shifting USDA's traditional role of aiding farmers through vice supports and marketing. _ , . What research the USDA considered relevant or influential depended on the larger policy imperatives that were operative. Proponents of target-specific food programs were equally selective in their use of the research findings. They discounted results that contradicted their assertions about WIC's efficacy. They ignored methodological criti- cisms and other reservations concerning evaluations of the program's impact on participants. Nevertheless, in the debate over WIC's effectiveness, proponents of the program were victorious. They had two factors in their favor: one scientific and the other ideological. First, research supporting the notion that proper nutrition is esssential for optimal human development was unquestioned. Second, feeding hungry infants was an activity that exist- ing social values and sentiments reinforced. Congres- sional decision makers had an intuitive sense that a programmatic effort of this type was good policy-- politically and morally. During the development of the program, research and evaluation generated ambiguous results concerning the Supplemental Food Program and WIC. Scientific findings introduced as evidence in the policy debate consistently affirmed the strong link between proper nutrition and healthy fetal and infant development. Equally consistent were the evaluations of target-specific food delivery systems: They did not work well. In sum, although nutritional assistance to this group was certainly
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53 warranted, the programs' delivery systems failed to effectively meet their needs. There were further complicating factors. Two studies had yielded results indicating that a carefully administered local program could produce measurable effects on fetal and infant development. Yet one of these studies (by Endozien) encountered severe methodological criticisms, and the other (by the Center for Disease Control) qualified its conclusions to the point of precluding any programwide extrapolations. Research and evaluation thus became relevant to the policy formation process only insofar as selected results were useful to proponents or opponents in advancing their causes. We observe this use of research for advocacy purposes again in the formulation of the Federal InteracencY Day Care Requirements. The principal research study in this case, Abt Associates' National Day Care Study, was appealing to both supporters and opponents of strict regulations. Its results provided some comfort to all sides in the policy debate. For advocates concerned with cognitive development, it affirmed the link between regulations and related outcomes. For those concerned with costs, it eased the recommended child-staff ratios and instead stressed group size Moreover, the Abt study endorsed regulations that most day care providers could meet at little or no additional expense. Its scientific methodology was at least credible to most social scientists. Thus, the influence of the National Day Care Study on policy stemmed not only from its scientific validity but also from its accord with the dominant, opposing political positions. The Abt study in a sense provided the catalyst for a compromise that met the demands of both child development interests and proprie- tary day care providers. As with other components of the policy process, it was more than the inherent scientific worth of the research that determined its influence in the policy process. Its interactions with other components--constituency pressure, prevailing values, and so forth--altered its influence, in this instance enhancing it. By and large the only type of research that was consistently influential on tax policy were studies of the revenue loss and the distributional effects of specific tax initiatives. Since the basic conflict in tax policy making is between the integrity of the tax structure and the equitable distribution of the tax burden--i.e., costs in revenue and costs to constituents-
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54 . relevant research usually focuses on the costs of a proposed tax policy provision. Analyses of revenue loss, however, even when the tax burden is distributed across income classes, may not adequately measure the benefits of an initiative. In the case of the job development deduction, for example, the research, both prospective and retrospective, did not assess the impact of the provision on domestic employment or on employment incen- tives in general. It examined only potential and actual revenue losses. In this respect it seems that tax initia- tives are seldom evaluated in terms of their efficacy in achieving their stated goals. We did not encounter analyses at any stage in the formation of the child care tax deduction/credit that examined the impact of various child care tax benefits on work incentives, types of care selected, employment, or similar variables. Decision makers made consideration of the broader impact of particular individual income tax provisions less relevent to their deliberations than potential revenue loss. In sum, we note that research of all types--knowledge- building, problem-exploring, policy-forming, and program- directing--can influence federal decision making. The more specifically focused a study is on a particular program or decision, the more crucial its timing becomes. Often the same study can be used by opponents in a policy debate; just as often opposing research results can be equally influential. Moreover, as with other components of the federal policy-making process, the interaction of research with other factors and forces significantly affects its impact. INTERACTIONS AMONG COMPONENTS IN FEDERAL POLICY FORMATION Interactions among components are the most complex and therefore the most difficult aspect of the policy forma- tion process to analyze systematically. These inter actions or relationships among components, rather than the isolated roles of individual actors, media presenta tions, research studies, or instances of constituency pressure, explain policy outcomes, although each of these appears to have an identifiable impact. To some extent the narrative of the case studies is an account of relevant interactions that are, in effect, the story line of each case. In the 1968 origins of WIC, for example, prevailing social values and beliefs held that
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55 pregnant women and infants are a target population deserving special benefits. Popular media dissemination of information concerning the special needs of this group focused attention on their condition. Because the sentiment of media presentations agreed with the dominant social values, it helped define malnutrition among this group as a serious problem requiring federal government action. Popular expositions of hunger in America and the salutary effects of proper nutrition and feeding habits on fetal and infant development focused public attention on undernourished pregnant women and young children and placed them on the political agenda. Consonantly, the high visibility of this group made it an attractive target for the Nixon administration's response to criticisms of its existing food assistance programs, particularly WIC. This process illustrates the interaction of constituency pressure (the Poor People's March), media attention (CBS's "Hunger in America"), and social values (feed hungry babies). Moreover, ongoing research on nutrition and infant development reinforced the inclination of proponents to provide food assistance to this target group. Complex interactions of this type are evident in an examination of any one of the contributing decisions presented in the case studies. Yet, as we suggested earlier, policies of the sort represented in the case studies are not the result of individual decisions such as the passage of the 1968 Supplemental Food Program. They are instead the product of numerous decisions made over a prolonged period of time, involving a large number of participants with different agendas and intentions. Policy represents a cumulative product. Understanding the dynamics of policy making involves understanding not only the process leading to individual decisions but also how such decisions create patterns affecting future events in the process and, ultimately, determine policy formation. The creation of the WIC program, for example, resulted from a confluence of several decisions from two relatively independent levels in the policy-making process. At one level were decisions contributing to the expansion of the child nutrition complex--a multibillion-dollar collection of politically invulnerable programs. Inclusion in this legislative phalanx protected a fledgling WIC program from a veto. The relatively small group of WIC advocates was strengthened by the broad array of interests that had long supported the School Lunch Program and related
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56 programs. It was not until 1978 that WIC faced congres- sional and executive scrutiny as a separate legislative act. By then there was an administration more favorable to it, an annualized budget of $440 million, and a million participants in the program. WIC's early linkage to the child nutrition complex ensured its passage before the full Congress. The key legislative action was its inclusion as a provision of this bill. Very few legislators, mostly senators, needed to be convinced of its worth to effect this addition. One Senate staff member and one advocate convinced a single senator (admittedly of great stature) of the program's value. Although narrowly defeated in the conservative Senate Committee on Agriculture, Herbert Humphrey successfully waged a floor fight. The powerful sympathy for feeding infants and pregnant women combined with the relatively small size of the initiative to produce a lopsided vote favoring WIC's inclusion. On the House side, the approval of a single committee's chair ensured WIC's acceptance in the conference report on the child nutrition bill. Proponents needed to convince very few decision makers to effect passage. Its association with the complex of child nutrition programs made it veto-proof. Once enacted, the locus of policy making shifted to another level. The conflict then involved a recalcitrant USDA and a public interest law firm. The arena of decision making shifted from the Congress to the courts. A court ruling favoring the implementation of the program changed both the size and purpose of WIC. The court essentially transformed any decision about WIC's future from one based on scientific evaluation to one based on specific legal issues. Program expansion became a function of judicial interpretation of congressional intent and not a function of its efficacy as adjudged by science. WIC's rapid expansion can be attributed to the inter- play of organizational behavior patterns with the court decisions, the power of the appeal of feeding hungry infants, the interest groups supporting the overall child nutrition bills, and evaluations that could be interpreted as favorable. The nexus for all these components was the deliberate efforts of a handful of proponents. Although one would be hard-pressed to demonstrate that vision created and sustained the overall food assistance programs, WIC appears to be chiefly a product of the ideas and efforts of few actors. It is distinctive for
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57 its sensitivity to both interests and ethos. Circum- stances created a window for change; human ingenuity opened it. Without going into similar detail, we observe that the case of the Federal Interagency Day Care Requirements also reflects this movement over time and in and out of different levels of policy making. The requirements themselves were largely a product of intradepartmental debates. Although constituency pressure was evident in these debates, it did not reach a broad, intensive level until enforcement appeared imminent. Yet when considera- tion of the requirements became integral to the larger policy issues surrounding the FAP and Title XX, the terms of the debate and the key actors changed. Children's advocacy groups and federal agency heads found themselves facing large labor unions, major state lobbies, leaders of Congress, and the President. The role of individual components of policy formation shifted as the level of the policy debate changed. What had been determined by a few bureaucrats and advocates abruptly became a struggle among leaders in Congress and the executive branch. Indeed, presidential primary politics became relevant at one point. Once these larger issues were resolved, the debate again became an intra- departmental matter involving a few advocacy groups. These shifts over time in the character and stakes of decision making, which are evident both in the WIC and the Federal Interagency Day Care Requirements case studies, are of crucial significance in understanding the policy formation process. In the case of the child care tax deduction/credit we note that the policy debate never quite rose to the level of the child nutrition program complex, FAP, or Title XX, nor did it sink to the intra- departmental level at which much of the day care require- ments were played out. From our analysis of the interactions among components of policy making, we conclude that they create identifi- able patterns suggesting a framework for understanding the process of policy formation. We detail this approach in the next chapter.
Representative terms from entire chapter: