Sam Houston State University

Department of Political Science

Fall 2006


American Public Policy (POL 285.12)

T, R 9:30-10:45

Academic Building I, Room 310



Professor : John Michael Bolus, Ph.D.

Email :

Office : AB1 319H; Tel: 294-4478

Office Hours : Tuesday, 10:45 -12; Thursday 10:45 -1; or by appointment.





Course Overview and Objectives


This course will offer broad coverage of public policy through critical and analytical inquiry into policy- making in America . Specific objectives are:



Class Format


Most class sessions will consist of lecturing and discussion on the assigned topics. Everyone is expected to read the assigned material before class. That is a necessary condition for participation. Additionally, performing well depends on curiosity, a desire to engage others and, last but no least, a commitment to be part of a successful collective endeavor. -- And a gentle reminder, turn off cell phones and place all unrelated reading material (newspapers, magazines, etc.) in your bag. Likewise, I expect (and the University demands) that you treat the people around you with respect (i.e. distracting behavior such as eating, arriving late and/or departing early, reading newspapers, and making offensive remarks will not be permitted).


Course Requirements


Examinations (75%) . There will be three exams during the semester. Exams will cover readings and lectures. Exams are a combination of multiple choice, short answer, identification, and essay. Please note: makeup examinations will only be given under extraordinary circumstances and require comprehensive


documentation; I will not ask for documentation and if it is not provided promptly your grade will be recorded as a zero.


Quizzes (10%) . On two occasions you will be evaluated in class by way of a brief and basic quiz.


Short Paper (10%) . There is one short paper in this course. You will receive this assignment one week in advance of its due date. Late papers will be penalized 10% for each business day.

Attendance (5%) . Attendance is crucial for effective participation and performance; to this end, if you miss two or fewer class meetings, you will receive full marks for attendance, however for each additional absence you will lose one-fifth of your possible attendance points.


Grading Scale . The standard SHSU grading scale is in effect: 90-100 A, 80-89 B, 70-79 C, 60-69 D, 59 and lower F.



Required Texts


Davis, Edwin S. Public Policy: The Basics . Edsal Publishing.


Miller, Matthew. The Two Percent Solution: Fixing America's Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love . Perseus Books Group.


O'Rourke, P.J. Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics. Atlantic Monthly Press.


Peterson, Peter G. Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It . Farrar, Straus & Giroux.


Please Note : On a number of occasions I will provide you with handouts to supplement our study of particular concepts and issues. You are, of course, responsible for these materials.



Academic Dishonesty


All students are expected to engage in all academic pursuits in a manner that is above reproach. Students are expected to maintain complete honesty and integrity in the academic experience both in and out of the classroom. Any student found guilty of dishonesty in any phase of academic work (exams, quizzes, and attendance) will be subject to disciplinary action. The University and its official representatives may initiate disciplinary proceedings against a student accused of any form of academic dishonesty including, but not limited to, cheating on an examination or other academic work to be submitted, plagiarism, collusion and the abuse of resource materials.



Americans with Disabilities Act


Please note : SHSU adheres to all applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and guidelines with respect to providing reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. If you have a disability that may affect adversely your work in this class, then I encourage you to register with the SHSU Counseling Center and to talk with me about how I can best help you. All disclosures of disabilities will be kept strictly confidential. NOTE: no accommodation can be made until you register with the Counseling Center .



Student Absences on Religious Holy Days Policy


Likewise, SHSU has a policy on student absences on religious holy days. Section 51.911(b) of the Texas Education Code requires that an institution of higher education excuse a student from attending classes or other required activities, including examinations, for the observance of a religious holy day, including travel for that purpose. A student whose absence is excused under this subsection may not be penalized for that absence and shall be allowed to take an examination or complete an assignment from which the student is excused within a reasonable time after the absence. University policy 861001 provides the procedures to be followed by the student and instructor. A student desiring to absent himself/herself from a scheduled class in order to observe a religious holy day(s) shall present to each instructor involved a written statement concerning the religious holy day(s). This request must be made in the first fifteen days of the semester or the first seven days of a summer session in which the absence(s) will occur. The instructor will complete a form notifying the student of a reasonable timeframe in which the missed assignments and/or examinations are to be completed.



Course Schedule


Week 1


Aug. 22 – Course Introduction and Perspectives on the Role of Government

Aug. 24 – Perspectives on the Role of Government and Understanding Public Policy


Readings : Davis, Introduction; Miller, Prologue, pp. 3-15


Week 2


Aug. 29 – Understanding Public Policy and Introducing the U.S. Economy

Aug. 31 – Microeconomic Concepts


Readings : Davis, pp. 1-17, 18-26, 40-46; Miller, pp. 16-68


Week 3


Sept. 5 – Monetary Policy

Sept. 7 – Monetary Policy and Fiscal Policy


Readings : Davis , pp. 27-39; O'Rourke, pp. 1-55; Handouts


Week 4


Sept. 12 – Fiscal Policy

Sept. 14 – Quiz #1 and Trade Policy


Readings : Davis , pp. 78-92; O'Rourke, pp. 56-103; Handouts



Week 5


Sept. 19 – Trade Policy

Sept. 21 – Development and Globalization


Readings : O'Rourke, pp. 104-198; Handouts


Week 6


Sept. 26 – Exam #1

Sept. 28 – The Economics and Politics of the Minimum and Living Wage


Readings : O'Rourke, pp. 199-246; Miller, pp. 160-171; Handouts


Week 7


Oct. 3 – Short Paper Due ; The Labor Market: Signs as you approach graduation

Oct. 5 – Social Security


Readings : Davis , pp. 47-54; Handouts


Week 8


Oct. 10 – Social Security and Retirement Security

Oct. 12 – Unfunded Obligations


Readings : Davis , pp. 71-77; Peterson, Preface and pp. 3-106; Handouts


Week 9


Oct. 17 – No Class Meeting (Dr. Bolus will be attending an out of town conference)

Oct. 19 – Unfunded Obligations


Readings : Peterson, pp. 107-234; Handouts



Week 10


Oct. 24 – Social Security Reform

Oct. 26 – Social Security Reform


Readings : Davis , pp. 55-62; Peterson, pp. 107-234; Handouts




Week 11


Oct. 31 – Exam #2

Nov. 2 – Healthcare Policy


Readings : Miller, pp. 69-91; Handout


Week 12


Nov. 7 – Healthcare Policy and Midterm Elections

Nov. 9 – Healthcare Policy and Midterm Elections


Readings : Davis , pp. 62-69; Miller, pp. 92-113; Handouts


Week 13


Nov. 14 – Quiz #2 and Education Policy

Nov. 16 – Education Policy


Readings : Miller, pp. 114-137; Handouts


Week 14


Nov. 21 – Education Policy

Nov. 23 – Thanksgiving Break


Readings : Miller, pp. 138-159


Week 15


Nov. 28 – Education Policy

Nov. 30 – Campaign Finance Reform


Readings : Miller, pp. 172-218; Handouts


Week 16


Dec. 5 – Financing the “Two-Percent Solution”

Dec. 7 – The Search for Solutions


Readings : Miller, pp. 219-262




Tuesday December 12 – Exam #3 (8-10)







For What It's Worth –


“You are not engaged so much in acquiring knowledge as in making mental efforts under criticism. A certain amount of knowledge you can indeed with average faculties acquire so as to retain; nor need you regret the hours spent on much that is forgotten, for the shadow of lost knowledge at least protects you from many illusions. But you go to school not for knowledge as much as for arts and habits; for the habit of attention, for the art of expression, for the art of assuming at a moment's notice a new intellectual posture, for the art of entering quickly into person's thoughts, for the habit of submitting to censure and refutation, for the art of indicating assent or dissent in graduated terms, for the habit of regarding minute points of accuracy, for the habit of what is possible at a given time, for taste, for discrimination, for mental courage and mental soberness. Above all, you go to school for self-knowledge.”


  William Cory -- Master at Eaton College , 1861.