Reasonable people disagree about the reach of the federal government, but there is near-universal consensus that it should protect us from such dangers as bacteria-infested food, harmful drugs, toxic pollution, crumbling bridges, and unsafe toys. And yet, the agencies that shoulder these responsibilities are in shambles. In her timely new book, The People's Agents and the Battle to Protect the American Public (University of Chicago Press), Professor Rena Steinzor and co-author Sidney Shapiro take a hard look at the tangled web of problems that have led to this dire state of affairs.
The authors argue that the agencies are not primarily to blame and that regulatory failure actually stems from a host of overlooked causes. Steinzor and Shapiro write that unrelenting funding cuts, a breakdown of the legislative process, an increase in the number of political appointees, a concurrent loss of experienced personnel, chaotic White House oversight, and ceaseless political attacks on the bureaucracy all have contributed to the broken system. But while the news is troubling, the authors also propose a host of reforms, including a new model for measuring the success of the agencies and a revitalization of the civil service. The People's Agents and the Battle to Protect the American Public is an urgent and compelling appeal to renew America's best traditions of public service.
During the course of her academic career, Steinzor has written extensively on efforts to reinvent environmental regulation in the United States, the use and misuse of science in environmental policymaking, and the devolution of legal and administrative authority to the states. She edited the book A New Progressive Agenda for Public Health and the Environment (Carolina Academic Press 2005) with Professor Christopher Schroeder, JD, MDiv, of the Duke Law School, and worked with Professor Wendy Wagner, JD, MES, of the University of Texas School of Law to edit a book of essays by prominent academics entitled Rescuing Science from Politics (Cambridge University Press, 2005), writing an introduction and conclusion summarizing the issues and recommendations suggested by the book. Steinzor's book titled Mother Earth and Uncle Sam: How Pollution and Hollow Government Hurt Our Kids was published by the University of Texas Press in 2007.
Steinzor is the president of the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR), a think tank composed of some 52 member scholars from universities across the United States. CPR is committed to developing and sharing knowledge and information, with the ultimate aim of preserving the fundamental value of the life and health of human beings and the natural environment.