2012 Policy Matters: Scholarly and Practical Perspectives on Contemporary Problems

January 18, 2012
6:30 PM
Shambaugh Auditorium, UI Main Library

With the country just beginning to emerge from its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the need for carefully crafted public policy has never been more critical. The Public Policy Center joined with the UI History Department to offer its third annual series of public forums featuring nationally recognized experts sharing their perspectives on pressing domestic policy issues. Topics included the economy, productive democracy, political organizing in the digital age, and many others.

Each session, UI faculty and other experts provided a background introduction to the topic of the week, followed by a discussion involving policy practitioners, legislators, and advocates, and questions from the audience. Course resources such as PowerPoint presentations and audiocasts are available on this website.

Classes took place every Wednesday from 6:30-8:20 in Shambaugh Auditorium at the UI Main Library.


January 19, 2012

Introduction: What Does the State Do?

With the country still emerging from its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the need for carefully crafted public policy has never been more critical. The Public Policy Center is joining with the UI History and Political Science Departments to offer its third annual series of public forums on pressing domestic policy issues. We open this year’s “Policy Matters” series with three introductory lectures.  These are designed to provide a baseline understanding of American political institutions, and to set the broader historical context and background.

Our first lecture, “What Does the State Do?” traces the basic premises of representative democracy, and the evolving role of the state.

Professor and Chair Department of History, University of Iowa
Director Public Policy Center Preventive and Community Dentistry University of Iowa

January 26, 2012

Introduction II: An Overview of American Political History

We continue our introductory lectures with a whirlwind historical survey of American public policy. Major policy innovations, as we shall see, have often come in response to economic challenges—including patterns of growth (industrialization), moments of national crisis (World Wars I and II), and economic downturns (most notably the Great Depression). We will consider patterns of constitutional change (including the shifting definition of the “commerce clause,” as well as key historical moments (especially the “big bang” of policy innovation during the New Deal of the 1930s).  


Professor and Chair Department of History, University of Iowa

February 2, 2012

The Mess We're In: Public Policy and the Economic Crisis

The recession that began in 2007 not only posed (and continues to pose) immense public policy challenges, but it has opened (or re-opened) fault lines in the political landscape. Not since the Great Depression of the 1930s has the role of the state been so fiercely contested. This week we will focus on the causes and consequences of our most recent economic downturn, and the concern with economic inequality that has emerged in its wake.


Professor and Chair Department of History, University of Iowa

February 9, 2012

Political Discourse and Political Dissent: Understanding the Tea Party and "Occupy" Movements

Perhaps the most important and telling consequence of our current political circumstance is the emergence of two new political movements: the “Tea Party,” and “Occupy Wall Street.” This week, we will open with a brief historical survey of political dissent in American history, and then hear from local voices from each of these movements.



February 16, 2012

The Battle of Wisconsin

Last years’ emblematic showdown in Wisconsin touches on a number of themes important to this course, including civil discourse, state budgeting, collective bargaining, and money in politics.  We will draw on a brief presentation from last fall’s political discourse symposium to introduce the key issues, and then consider the broader implications.


Professor and Chair Department of History, University of Iowa
Director University of Iowa Labor Center

February 23, 2012

Politics in a Digital Age
Our current political challenges are accompanied by an ongoing revolution in political communication and political participation. But the promise and potential of the "new media" to deliver information and to engage citizens is accompanied by a "digital divide" between those with ready access to such resources and those without. David Perlmutter (Director, UI Journalism) will discuss the emergence and importance of political blogging. Caroline Tolbert (Professor, UI Political Science) will discuss the patterns and policy implications of our "digital divide."


Resources for this topic include a short roll of local and Iowa political blogs:

Department of Political Science University of Iowa
Professor and Director School of Journalism, University of Iowa
Local Iowa City blogger

March 1, 2012

Sally Kenney Lecture

Tulane Professor Sally Kenney discussed her forthcoming book, Gender and Justice: Why Women Judges Really Matter, on the February 29th lecure of the Spring 2012 Policy Matters session.

Sally J. Kenney has been with Tulane University since 2010. Prior to joining Tulane, she served from 1995-2009 on the faculty at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, where she also directed the Center on Women and Public Policy. From 1989-1995, she held a joint appointment in Political Science, Women's Studies, and Law at the University of Iowa.

Professor Kenney is a founder of the Infinity Project, which works to increase the number of women on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. She also served on the Minnesota Supreme Court’s Gender Fairness Implementation Committee, is the co-founder and co-chair of the Law & Society’s Collaborative Research Network on Women Judges, and runs a blog on gender and judging. An expert on women and law, Dr. Kenney has served on the judicial-academic network of the National Association of Women Judges. In addition, she has served on the boards of the court monitoring organization Watch, the Minnesota Women’s Campaign Fund, and the University of Minnesota Press.

She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University, a B.A. and M.A. in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Magdalen College, Oxford, and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Iowa.

University of Iowa Charles M. and Marion J. Kierscht Professor of Law, Angela Onwuachi-Willig, joined Ms. Kenney and discussed a few points in addition to leading a discussion, as well.


Listen here to an interview Sally Kenney did with the KRUI 89.7FM news staff about her forthcoming book and women in the judiciary in Iowa.


*Note: This event was free and open to the public. In conjunction with the Public Policy Center, the UI History Department, and UI Political Science Department, the Iowa Women's Archives, UI Libraries, and also Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies and UI College of Law were co-sponsors of this event.

Professor Executive Director, Newcomb College Institute, Tulane University
Professor College of Law, University of Iowa

March 8, 2012

Common Cause President Bob Edgar on Campaign Finance

Robert Edgar, President and CEO, Common Cause

Bob Edgar presented a lecture on the influence of campaign financing, the Citizens United case and the rise of SuperPACs on our political discourse.

Mr. Edgar has been president and CEO of Common Cause for almost five years. Common Cause is a national nonpartisan, non-profit ‘citizens’ lobby working to make government at all levels more honest, open and accountable, and to connect citizens with their democracy. Mr. Edgar is a former member of Congress, having represented the Seventh Congressional District outside Philadelphia, PA, for six terms. He received a BA from Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pa., and a M.Div from the Theological School of Drew University, Madison, N.J. He has also been president of the Claremont School of Theology and general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ. He holds five honorary doctoral degrees.


*Note: This event is free and open to the public. In conjunction with the Public Policy Center and the UI History and Political Science Departments in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences the UI College of Law is also a co-sponsor of this lecture event.


President CEO, Common Cause

March 21, 2012

Natural Resources — Water Policy

The floods of 2008 (in the Cedar and Iowa River watersheds in eastern Iowa) and 2011 (in the upper Missouri in western Iowa) call to mind the lament of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner: “Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every here, Nor any drop to drink.”  Behind the catastrophic abundance of flooded rivers lies an economic and political challenge of real scarcity—including the uneven distribution of water (nationally and globally) and the substantial cost and complexity of managing water as it is consumed and disposed by urban, agricultural, and industrial users.  This week, we focus on watersheds—the hydrology that sustains our population and our economy, even as it flows through both to affect those hundreds of miles from Iowa.  Our panel, drawn from the UI Engineering College and the Iowa Geological Survey, examines these challenges.



Program Coordinator Research Geologist, IOWATER
Assistant Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant Research Engineer IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering University of Iowa

March 28, 2012

Policy Primer: Income Security

One of our most pressing policy concerns—before and during (and presumably after) the recession—is growing income inequality in the United States. Earlier in the semester (Februray 1st), we took a close look at patterns of inequality in the United States. Today we turn our attention to the policy response. Income security or antipoverty policies offer a "safety net" for those who—due to unemployment, disability, low education attainment, personal crises, or other hardship—cannot support themselves or their families. This session will offer an overview of poverty in the United States (a wealthy but unequal society), and perspectives on national, state, and local policies. 



Director Institute for Inequality Studies, Director, Social Science Research Center, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Iowa
Research Associate and Outreach Coordinator Iowa Policy Project

April 4, 2012

American Labor Policy and International Labor Standards: Is There a Gap?

Fifty years ago, organized labor claimed nearly 40 percent of the private labor force and substantial political clout. Today, labor represents barely 7 percent of the private labor force and has been relegated to just another “special interest” in party politics. This week we will trace the causes and consequences of this dramatic reversal in fortune—looking not only at the impact on American workers and American politics, but also at the international context of workers rights with guest lecturer, Lance Compa.



Federal labor policy is overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board.
Important national labor organizations include the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), UNITE HERE! and the Change To Win coalition. 
See also the work of the Interfaith Worker Justice Network, Labor Beat; the American Labor Studies Center at Cornell, the National Employment Law Project and American Rights at Work.
University-based labor centers are also an important resource; see UI Labor Center, the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education, the UC-Berkeley Labor Center.
The leading resource for policies curtailing organized labor are the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Institute for Labor Relations Research; and, in Iowa, the Iowa Policy Institute.


Senior Lecturer International & Comparative Labor, Cornell University

April 11, 2012

Mariannette Miller-Meeks: Policy Primer — Health Care
This class reviews the components and history of health care reform in the United States—culminating in the Affordable Care Act of 2009. Our discussion touches on the dimensions of health care reform, the legal challenges facing the law (likely to be resolved by the Supreme Court this summer), and the challenges of implementing it at the state level.


Professor and Chair Department of History, University of Iowa
Director Public Policy Center Preventive and Community Dentistry University of Iowa
Director Iowa Department of Public Health

April 18, 2012

Policy Primer: Sustainability in the Built Environment
Director Transportation Research Program, PPC Urban and Regional Planning Department of Economics University of Iowa

April 25, 2012

Policy Primer: The Budget Riddle
This week we tackle a topic that hovers over everything else we have discussed—budget and taxes. Our discussion, led by Peter Fisher (Emeritus Professor of Urban Planning and Research Director of the Iowa Policy Project), will look at patterns in American public finance (state and federal), including relevant historical perspective and international comparisons. 
In addition to the readings listed below, Students are encouraged to spend some time with one of the many online budget calculators, including the New York Times Budget Project, or American Public Media’s Budget Hero. For a good summary of federal spending patterns, go to the National Priority Project’s Federal Budget Dashboard. For a good overview of basic terms and concepts see the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Policy Basics page (federal budget is the first item, scroll down for state budget and taxes)
Urban and Regional Planning University of Iowa
Research Director Iowa Policy Project

May 2, 2012

Professor and Chair Department of History, University of Iowa
The Forkenbrock Series provides a forum for dialogue about policy areas from applied, academic, and interdisciplinary perspectives. The series was established in honor of David Forkenbrock, a nationally recognized transportation researcher. Dr. Forkenbrock established the Public Policy Center at the University of Iowa in 1987 and directed the Center until 2007. His vision was to enable public and private sector decision makers to work with faculty, staff, and student researchers to explore solutions to complex problems related to the public interest.
Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Dragana Petic at dragana-petic@uiowa.edu.