21st Century Issues In America

21st Century Issues In America

by Ph.D James E. Pittman

Today, in the 21st Century, more than ever before, we are in urgent need of local, state, national and global citizens who possess policy and administration competence, who are committed to the achievement of worldwide public administration, social justice, and human and economic equity as a foundation for public policy and development, and lasting peace on the planet… See more details below


Today, in the 21st Century, more than ever before, we are in urgent need of local, state, national and global citizens who possess policy and administration competence, who are committed to the achievement of worldwide public administration, social justice, and human and economic equity as a foundation for public policy and development, and lasting peace on the planet. This Textbook, 21st Century Issues in America: An Introduction to Public Administration, Theory and Practice, is written for scholars as an introductory course in Public Administration at the undergraduate level. My goal is to create a framework and deep learning knowledge that will enable them to understand and make sense out of a complex and challenging social and economic issues that asks productive citizens to comprehend and deal fairly and openly with controversial topics as prejudice, racism, economic and social justice, cultural differences and pluralism, the recession, the economy, ill advised wars, inappropriate dress codes, crime and violence drugs, financial crises, and natural disasters.

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Copyright © 2009 James E. Pittman, Ph.D.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4490-1666-1

Chapter One


The time has come in America for change, To replace Fear with Hope.... Our time has come.... At this defining moment in history, change has come to America. That's why I ran for President of the United States of America. Barack Obama, then president-elect America's First African-American President November 4, 2008

The Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin and Republican Vice-President nominee in 2008 reportedly received over $40,000 in state government funds for her and her family for travel, lodging and per diem during the year, but reportedly stayed overnight at home in Alaska. The Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin reportedly fired the Alaska Public Safety Commissioner for not dismissing or terminating her brother-in-law, who was divorcing Palin's sister. Alaska's oldest serving Senator in the U.S. Senate Ted Stevenson is indicted for fraud and corruption for taking favors from a business contractor who renovated and modified Stevenson's vacation home/cabin in Alaska and not reporting the total cost of all building repairs. A New Orleans African-American Female Police Officer is beaten and killed with her handgun revolver by a mentally-ill man who later pleads insanity. In one day following Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued over 120 people trapped on rooftops in New Orleans. Three (3) years following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, building assistance from government has been disappointing and unusually slow and atypical. To meet budget deficits a state increases its university tuition for college students, cuts health care programs for the poor and elderly, and releases prisoners before the end of their sentence. An African-American candidate for mayor of the City of Jackson, Mississippi runs successfully in 2006 on his pledge to clean up crime and violence, provide economic development after being elected. The mayor of the City of Detroit proposed and implemented severe city job cuts due to a reduction in tax revenues and consumer confidence as a results of the impending recession of 2008. Sound familiar?

What do these examples have in common? All of them are indeed real life situations. Each of these situations represents a paramount aspect of public administration, which is one of the most important dimensions of the American governmental process.

As America enters the 21st Century, public administration as a discipline and activity, remains a large and highly complex enterprise made up of thousands of smaller units that are a part of our daily activities of millions of citizens and government employees. Each day, consciously or unconsciously, the actions and decisions of millions of citizens are impacted everyday by public administrators. The growth and reduction of government activity and public bureaucracy are among the most significant social phenomena of the new century. The instability of the economy, the stock market fiasco, the continuous outcry of government bail-out of financial institutions and the big three (3) automakers, unemployment, the recession, the economy's budget deficit, financing of two (2) wars, it is no wonder that the mission and size of bureaucracy have become the focal point of discussion among citizens, scholars, and practitioners. Simultaneously, politicians of each political party as well as the media have criticized bureaucracy at all levels of government.

Many politicians have run successfully "against" the bureaucracy: in 2008 Barack Obama promised "Change" and "Hope" for Americans from George W. Bush Republican regime of unaccountability, mistrust, and lack of transparency; during the controversial 2000 presidential Campaign conservative Republican candidate George W. Bush accused his opponent, former Vice President Al Gore of representing "the government" while he (Bush) represented "the People"; in 1996, Bill Clinton declared prematurely that "the era of Big Government is over"; George H.W. Bush dared us to "Read [his] lips" in 1988; in 1980, Ronald Reagan promised to "get the federal government off your backs"; and, in 1976, Jimmy Carter promised to "clean up the bureaucratic mess in Washington". Amazingly, positions do change. Today, Barack Obama as America's 44th President of the United States and America's first African American President inherits the Presidency in January of 2009 with America being in the second worst financial condition in history or since 1932 when Franklin D. Roosevelt took office after the Great Depression. As a democratic President, Obama inherits the second worst "opening act" amid record U.S. deficits and a $10 trillion federal debt with the government already holding massive new stakes in banks and mortgages, 2 wars and severe economic crisis, a struggling economy, a protracted recession looming, $100,50 Billion Dollar Financial Market Bailout, the Big 3 automakers threatening the loss of 3-and 5-million job (which translates into $60 Billion annually in taxes), unemployment at 6.9% (a 14 year high), and a need to develop a universal health care program. As the 43rd President, George W. Bush led one of the largest expansions of the federal bureaucracy in U.S. history to maintain domestic security, respond to natural disasters, and implement U.S. policy in Iraq. When all is said and done, chief executives are elected by making promises and increasing bureaucracy to achieve them and subsequently, they are judged by the voters on their ability to fulfill those promises.

Depending upon where one finds himself or herself, one's awareness of bureaucracy will vary according to domestic and international conditions and situation. This awareness is usually higher when we cast votes for elected officials or fill out our income tax return (especially when we have to pay additional tax on April 15), apply for government loans to finance a college education, seek federal assistance after a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina, or deal directly with the most visible street level bureaucrats- "first responders" such as police officers, emergency service workers, and firefighters. We are less conscious of the role of bureaucracy and other circumstances. Above and beyond this level, much bureaucratic decision making is obscure, hidden, or just not directly meaningful to us. Consider, for example, decisions by the U.S. State Department to change eligibility formulas for determining international student visas.

Requirements or proposals such as these may be important to subsets of citizens (and noncitizens as well) and may even lend legitimacy to the final actions taken by public agencies, but they typically generate little publicity or public attention by themselves. Some of the most important work of government agencies takes place away from public view. Consequently, everyone has a general opinion-usually negative-about bureaucracy and politics. What does the term "bureaucracy" actually mean? A bureaucracy or a bureaucratic organization is characterized by an internal division of labor, specialization of work performed, a vertical hierarchy or chain of command, well-defined routines for carrying out operating tasks, reliance on pervious actions in resolving problems, and a clear set of rules regarding managerial control over organizational activities. It is assumed that most of those working in a bureaucracy are professionals in their specialties and that their occupational loyalties rest with their organization rather than with a political party or other external affiliation. Because much of public management in American government occurs within bureaucratic structures, there is a tendency to use bureaucracy as just another term for public administration or public management, but it has a more specific meaning than either of those, particularly with regard to the form or structure of administrative agencies.

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack event and its tragedy, we as Americans are far more aware of the role of bureaucracy in our lives, as well as the inept and unimaginable governmental response to victims in New Orleans to Hurricane Katrina. International students enrolled in American universities are subject to more thorough background checks; airport security has become much tighter, more intrusive, and time-consuming; public gatherings, university graduations, and sports and entertainment events have increased security precautions and added extra expenses as a result. Flying on airplanes is transforming into being a luxury, only subject to the affluent class. The era if inexpensive and relatively safe air travel that generated the development of the global economy is over. Deregulation of airlines bureaucracy which was supposed to make the airline industry more competitive and beneficial to the consumer, has achieved just the opposite effect. Consumers today have witnessed higher ticket costs, excessive fees for baggage cost, beverages, snacks and other amenities while seeing quality of service diminish completely. Airlines and travel related rental car, hotel, and restaurant businesses worldwide are suffering economically, but also are driving customers to make alternate choices for travel needs. Airlines are merging and filing for bankruptcy at record rates. Increasing amounts of scarce public resources often are diverted from much needed economic development and social programs to bolster domestic and international security for Americans who are today more aware of the protective and service responsibilities of public agencies of public agencies.

Perceived as good or bad the institution of bureaucracy brings forth strong feelings among millions of American citizens. It has been suggested that the language of bureaucracy (the jargon that is used) has harmed the English language as a whole. Most of us are familiar, perhaps comfortable with government bureaucracy. The mention of "bureaucracy" to Americans, usually bring forth unpopular feelings to those they serve. Over the past years, bureaucracy has been blamed for many of society's current ills, for several reasons. Some of those reasons are;

1. Government agencies are clearly influential, and in all but a handful of cases, bureaucrats are met elected by the public. Simply put, they are convenient and increasingly visible targets. 2. We hear a great deal about the growing power of bureaucracy and bureaucrats, the arbitrary nature of many decisions, the lack of accountability, questionable ethics, poor service quality, impersonal treatment, and cases of simple incompetence.

On the other hand, when natural and manmade disasters strike like Hurricane Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Eduard, Dolly, or Ike, or forest fires like in California 2008, citizens turn to government and its bureaucratic institutions for assistance or protection. Shifts in public opinion also reflect faith and trust in government and are generally associated with confidence in government's ability to deliver services maintain economic growth, protect citizens and resolve basic social issues (See Chapters 2 and 3). Expressions of trust or mistrust in government largely reflect feelings about the incumbent national administration. Public trust in government reflects the national mood and has significantly declined since 2000. Public Trust declined from the mid-1980s until the early 1990s. Trust moved up sharply in the mid-1990s as a result of strong economic growth and policies of Clinton-Gore administration (1993-2001) (See Figure 1).

Bureaucracy often becomes a focal point of discontent not only because of the obvious discretionary authority but also because of the perception of its waste and mismanagement of scarce resources, its relatively obscure and secretive decisions making processes, and the degree to which it is insulated from direct (elective)political controls. Protests against the November 2008 ban on same-sex marriage in California, protests against the actions of local school boards, county commissioners, taxing authorities, and police departments, impatience with efficiency, unfairness, and red tape, and adverse public responses to regulatory actions all solidify the intensity of feelings and more so, the growing frustration and a widening sense of distance between the people and their governing institutions. Our attitudes toward both public and private bureaucracies (i.e. toward all large organizations) have been affected by the financial situations that have occurred in the private sector (i.e. WorldCom, Enron, Lehman Brothers, AIG Insurance, etc). Feelings towards these large organizations have indeed affected the larger complex feelings and reactions toward corporations, governments, and other major institutions in American society, such as business, labor, the mass media, the military, and education. The confidence of Americans in their institutions has declined significantly from 1960 thru 2008, with one exception being from 1992 thru 2001 when trust and consumer confidence were positive. During the above referenced period of negativity, the U.S. slipped due to division social conflict—the war in Vietnam, student protest, racial violence—followed by Watergate—the energy crisis, recession, and the rampant inflation of the 1970s. The "taxpayers" revolt that surfaced swiftly and intensely in the late 1970s was followed by decentralization, deregulation, and devolution of decision authority from the federal to state and local governments, in part as a reaction against perceived bureaucratic excesses. The 80s saw Reagan and Bush inherit the Presidency as Republicans, so Washington and the remainder of the nation witness optimism based on tax cuts, higher corporate profits, and less regulation of the economy. In 1992, Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was elected President. Under his Administration, economic conditions began improving. As economic conditions improved during this time, public attitudes toward government also began to change for the better, notably to the form of rising support for government deregulation, tax relief, and reductions in government spending. In 2007 and 2008, corporate scandals and financial fiascos at WorldCom, Enron, Lehman-Brothers and AIG Insurance and the "downsizing" of many jobs resulting from a lack of consumer confident, spending, and a slowing economy have significantly influenced people's feelings about their futures, leaders, and institutions. To the extent that Republican leaders, Congress and governmental activities were directed toward trying to deal with vast economic and financial problems, they mounted in 2006, 2007, and 2008 and were perceived by the American public to be ineffective, unaccountable and a lack of trust, thus causing public confidence to deteriorate. Adverse public trust and confidence likewise were electoral fortunes of incumbent presidents seeking second terms: Gerald Ford, a Republican, in 1976; Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, in 1980; and George H. W. Bush, A Republican, in 1992. Public trust and hope in government are always significant concerns as they were in the American people casting their vote on November 4, 2008 to elect Barack Obama as American's 44th and first African American President of the United States. During the late twentieth century, public trust increased in the mid-1990s and surged after October 2001. From 2002 thru 2007, trust and confident receded in the U.S. due to a lack of confidence and support for the war in Iraq.

For particular federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Park Service, and the Social Security Administration, public respect, trust, and quality of service have improved significantly. The stock market financial fiascos of 2008 coupled with the national mortgage crises and deepening recession of 2008, has caused the Federal Reserve Board of Directors (Banks) to fluctuate in public confidence which appear to be associated more closely with the strength of the national economy and the Republican party in power which will end in 2008. For example, a worsening economy in 2007 along with other extenuating factors, were major factors in Barack Obama victory over John McCain in the presidential election in 2008. The Obama-Biden victory in 2008 reflects hope and change (i.e. first African American elected as President of the United States) and a positive national mood about the future of America, however, Obama inherits the second's worse financial states of America since 1932. Obama inherits as President a U.S. economy with record U.S. deficits and a $10 trillion federal debt with the government already holding massive new stakes in banks and mortgages, 2 wars (Iraq and Afghanistan), and severe economic crises, a struggling economy, a protracted recession looming, $100,50 billion dollar financial market bailout, the big 3-automobiles threatening the loss of 3-and5 million jobs (which translates into $60 Billion annually in taxes), unemployment at a 14-year high of 6.9%, and the need to develop a universal health care program for needy Americans. Good or bad, the 2008 election bought into power control of a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House of Representative, and a Democratic President, making way for a Democratic controlled Congress. George W. Bush elected president in 2000, bought fourth a lack of strong or majority of popular votes for one of the closest election ever in modern American history, which some have suggested was determined by the Supreme Court rather than by the voters. President Bush was re-elected in 2004 by wider electoral and popular vote margins. Looking back over public administration's popularity over the past 100 years, the public's regard for public administrators have fallen far below what it was seventy-eight years ago, when the civil service was considered an esteemed and noble profession.


Excerpted from 21st CENTURY ISSUES IN AMERICA by JAMES E. PITTMAN Copyright © 2009 by James E. Pittman, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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