Matters of Life and Death: The Durability of Discretionary Programs 1970-2004
AbstractContrary to the prevailing view that federal programs are immortal, we show that program death is commonplace and seek to explain why. We develop a simple model of distributive politics, which we call "probabilistic universalism." Our theory suggests that differences in the ideological composition of coalitions between a current and an enacting Congress drive program elimination. To test the theory, we examine the durability of every federal discretionary program established between 1970 and 2004, using a new dataset that distinguishes program death from restructuring. Consistent with our predictions, we find that changes in the partisan composition of coalitions have a strong influence on program durability. We also demonstrate that these effects are asymmetric: programmatic life spans are shortened by coalition losses and lengthened by coalition gains. We thus debunk the conventional wisdom that federal programs are everlasting while providing a plausible coalition-based account for their varying life spans.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago in its series Working Papers with number 0701.
Date of creation: Jan 2007
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federal programs; politics; funding;
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