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The framers of the U. S. Constitution focused intently on the difficulties of achieving a workable middle ground between national and local authority. They located that middle ground in a new form of federalism that James Madison called the "compound republic." The term conveys the complicated and ambiguous intent of the framing generation and helps to make comprehensible what otherwise is bewildering to the modern citizenry: a form of government that divides and disperses official power between majorities of two different kinds—one composed of individual voters, and the other, of the distinct political societies we call states. America's federalism is the subject of this collection of essays by Martha Derthick, a leading scholar of American government. She explores the nature of the compound republic, with attention both to its enduring features and to the changes wrought in the twentieth century by Progressivism, the New Deal, and the civil rights revolution. Interest in federalism is likely to increase in the wake of the 2000 presidential election. There are demands for reform of the electoral college, given heightened awareness that it does not strictly reflect the popular vote. The U. S. Supreme Court, under Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, has mounted an explicit and controversial defense of federalism, and new nominees to the Court are likely to be questioned on that subject and appraised in part by their responses. Derthick's essays invite readers to join the Court in weighing the contemporary importance of federalism as an institution of government.
Prize-winning author Martha Derthick draws on the recent experience of the Social Security Administration to examine the quality of policymaker's guidance and the feasibility of their policies.

Derthick concludes that many structural features of American government hinder good administration, that policymakers lack concern for administration, and that they often miscalculate the administrative consequences of their policy choices.

To illustrate this argument, Agency Under Stress analyzes two much-publicized cases of poor performance by one of the biggest and best established of U.S. government agencies, the Social Security Administration. The first case is that of the supplemental security income program to support needy blind, aged and disabled persons. Given responsibility of administering the program in 1974, the Social Security Administration was unequal to the task: many payments were made in error; many eligible persons were not paid; computer systems were not ready; field employees worked millions of hours of overtime; and other agency programs suffered.

The second case is that of an eligibility review that Congress ordered the Social Security Administration to conduct for disability insurance recipients in the 1980s. The results were similarly traumatic: of over 1.2 million cases examined, 495,000 had benefits terminated, and, flooded with appeals, the courts ruled overwhelmingly against the agency.

Derthick's analysis and conclusions have far-reaching implications for how the government can effectively serve its clients.

The framers of the U. S. Constitution focused intently on the difficulties of achieving a workable middle ground between national and local authority. They located that middle ground in a new form of federalism that James Madison called the "compound republic." The term conveys the complicated and ambiguous intent of the framing generation and helps to make comprehensible what otherwise is bewildering to the modern citizenry: a form of government that divides and disperses official power between majorities of two different kinds—one composed of individual voters, and the other, of the distinct political societies we call states. America's federalism is the subject of this collection of essays by Martha Derthick, a leading scholar of American government. She explores the nature of the compound republic, with attention both to its enduring features and to the changes wrought in the twentieth century by Progressivism, the New Deal, and the civil rights revolution. Interest in federalism is likely to increase in the wake of the 2000 presidential election. There are demands for reform of the electoral college, given heightened awareness that it does not strictly reflect the popular vote. The U. S. Supreme Court, under Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, has mounted an explicit and controversial defense of federalism, and new nominees to the Court are likely to be questioned on that subject and appraised in part by their responses. Derthick's essays invite readers to join the Court in weighing the contemporary importance of federalism as an institution of government.
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