U. S. Government: Democracy In Action
Social and Domestic Policy
National policy affects your economic decisions, your education, your health, and much more. Chapter 21 describes the important policy choices that your government makes. It also examines how political issues affect social and domestic policies.
Section 1 takes a look at the development of the federal government's business and labor policies. Although free enterprise is the foundation of the American economic system, ours is a mixed economy—a system in which the government both supports and regulates private enterprise. In addition to promoting and regulating business, the federal government also protects and regulates labor unions.
Section 2 discusses the federal government's involvement in agriculture and protecting the environment. The federal government has always encouraged American agriculture, with acts such as the Morrill Act and the Homestead Act of 1862 and with agencies such as the Rural Electrification Administration, the Farmers Home Administration, the Foreign Agricultural Service, and the Commodity Credit Corporation. Closely related to farming issues are environmental issues. The federal government began reacting to public concern over the deteriorating environment as early as 1955.
Section 3 examines health care and public assistance policies. The Social Security Act of 1935 was the first of many government-supported social insurance, public assistance, and health care programs. Public assistance programs are designed to help poor citizens. Social insurance programs help the elderly, the ill, the disabled, and the unemployed. Today the Public Health Service promotes the health of citizens by operating research, grant, and action programs. Other federal agencies also concerned with Americans' health are the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration.
Section 4 reviews the federal government's involvement in education, housing, and transportation. Providing for public education was one of the main powers the Constitution reserved for the states. Eventually, however, the federal government became involved in education by funding special education activities with the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917. The government first became involved in housing during the Great Depression. Today the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) helps low- to middle-income families afford houses, and urban renewal makes cities more attractive places to live. The national government first entered the field of transportation in 1811 by helping to build the National Road. Since then the federal government has contributed, usually through some form of subsidy, to the building of dams, canals, railroads, and other forms of transportation.