Can, Should, and Ultimately How Do Governments Respond to Policy Gaps: Responsibilities of the Public Administrator in the Twenty-First Century - Refering to the Novel Striking a Balance: Work, Family, Life by Robert Drago

Can, Should, and Ultimately How Do Governments Respond to Policy Gaps: Responsibilities of the Public Administrator in the Twenty-First Century - Refering to the Novel Striking a Balance: Work, Family, Life by Robert Drago

There is no denying that the American landscape is under significant stress. As Robert Drago writes in Striking a Balance: Work, Family, Life, “our economy and society are rigged to create imbalance. (Drago, 3)” These trends are discernable, most notably in a growing care, gender, and income gap. However, what lays at the very heart of this disease are societal norms. Many have too little work, too little money, and too much spare time while many have too much work, too much money, and not enough spare time. It is the responsibility of the government to intervene on behalf of every citizen’s health and wellbeing, despite their misunderstanding of intentions.

The Gaps
While great strides have been taken to integrate healthcare equality into the American system, an alarmingly increasing number of Americans are going backwards. As Drago points out, “More than one-third of the U.S. population is in need of regular care, including children, the burgeoning population of the elderly, and millions of disabled adults. More than half of those needing care, or almost one-fifth of all Americans, have fallen into a care gap. (Drago, 120)” This trend is discriminatory towards women and as such continues to regress American equality. In addition, the previous trend gives way to another trend: the gender gap. Drago elucidates that “For those women who succeed and for those who provide care, imbalance is typically a way of life. Those provide care are often moonlighting without pay, striving to meet commitments to family while holding down a job, and have little time for leisure…Women who succeed, meanwhile, are given signals to avoid even the mildest indication of caregiving commitments and often engage in bias avoidance behaviors in response. (Drago, 121)” Thus, this trend too is discriminatory, particularly towards women, marring any chance of American equality too. Finally, while perhaps the greatest strides have been made in economic equality, Americans are increasingly being forced into poverty or wealthy thresholds. Drago asserts “Between 1977 and 2002, the gap between the hourly wage of the top earning individual at the 90th percentile, relative to the individual at the 10th percentile level, rose by 24%. (Drago, 121).” Lurking behind this trend lies longer work shifts for wealthier individuals to complete more work, while individuals at the bottom have a large amount of leisure time for poorer individuals but no work. This too is often discriminatory, as women and minorities are increasingly found at the bottom.

The Norms
At the bottom of each of these trends of the American equality landscape lies a common catalyst: norms. Each of the aforementioned trends is fueled by its own societal norm. The motherhood norm pushes the care gap, the ideal worker norm propels the gender gap, and the individualism norm instigates the income gap. The motherhood norm forces a burden upon women to care. As Drago argues, “the norm of motherhood leads women to expect, and be expected, to serve as caregivers for their families, and, more broadly, to care for anyone in need, and to do so for love rather than money. (Drago, 7)” As such, women are more likely to zero-sum accept work or zero-sum accept family, neither of which is healthy or in their well-being and further propagating the care gap. The ideal worker norm again incentivizes individuals to act a certain way, despite what their true feelings actually are. Drago writes “professionals must adhere to the norm if they hope to gain promotions, prize assignments, high salaries, and to serve in leadership positions. (Drago, 8)” The ideal worker norm, like the motherhood norm, encourages women to act in unhealthy or undesirable ways, drawing sharp distinctions between those who stay at home and those who work, and pushing the gender gap forward. Finally, the individualism norm tells citizens to be ashamed if they are unable to provide for themselves. Drago asserts “the third norm, individualism, involves a belief that the government does not, cannot, and should not be responsible for taking care of those who are unable to care for themselves due to age or disability.” Moreover, the individualism norm is particularly strong in the United States for historical reasons. Individuals, often the poorest of the poor, are unable to receive the benefits of government programs and funds because of a collective intrinsic “do-it-yourself” mentality.

The Responsibility of Government to Respond
Still today at the core of the political ideology landscape, there remains a key difference between groups: what is the role of government? Not surprisingly, critics counter that despite the ability of governments to make their citizens directly happier, it is not government’s philosophical or efficient role. However, as Drago points out, “the need to create a better society has fallen on our shoulders. (Drago, 147)” Such creation would undoubtedly take up immense time, money, and effort, but would increase each citizen’s health and wellbeing bountifully – a very core responsibility of government, whether its citizens see it in the short end or not.

The American Dream of a safe, healthy, and prosperous life that caused so many to flock to America has come under attack in recent years. A care gap, a gender gap, and an income gap threaten our very way of life. However, lurking under the surface propagating these trends are often our very societal norms of motherhood, hard work, and individualism. In order to restore the dream so many seek, social change is needed. However, some argue this is not the role of the government, and will increase the arbitrary power of public administrators. It is the responsibility of the government to intervene on behalf of every citizen’s health and wellbeing – even if citizens are blinded by the individualism norm in the short-run because it is in their long-term interests. Also, in order to cancel this point, perhaps checks and balances inserted into the legislation or created institution would work. Finally, public administrators must remain mindful, vigilant, and ethical to the citizen’s liberty in their pursuits.