How Bureaucrats Represent Economic Interests: Partisan Control over Trade Adjustment Assistance
(Job market paper, under review) (Link)
Extending the literatures on presidential control over the administrative state and the career incentives of bureaucrats, this paper evaluates the responsiveness of civil servants to changes in presidential preferences on matters involving trade. I examine how career bureaucrats distribute Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits, the single largest federal program that compensates workers displaced by international trade. With a dataset consisting of the universe of 84,165 petitions over a 45-year period, I exploit the quasi-random assignment of petitions to individual investigators at different stages of their careers within the Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance (OTAA). I find that investigators are less likely to certify TAA petitions and are more likely to delay investigations during Republican presidencies relative to Democratic presidencies. This partisan responsiveness, however, applies uniquely to untenured career bureaucrats; and it increases in magnitude during periods of high alignment between labor and the Democratic party.
Certifying Threat: The Electoral Logic of Economic Relief
(Co-authored with Robert Gulotty, under review) (Link)
It is widely understood that redistributive policies help build electoral support for globalization. However, in practice, pro-globalization platforms do not expand direct compensation to the needed as much as what we expect given the alleged electoral benefits. We argue that this mismatch is a product of what we term the consternation effect, in which citizens can infer the negative effects of globalization from the choice to offer compensation. We find that pro-globalization politicians would under-provide compensation to avoid electoral backlash. Using data from the US Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program and the 2008 presidential election, we replicate a research design that uses exogenous allocation of petitions for assistance across bureaucrats to causally identify the electoral effect of greater access to trade compensation. We find that access to TAA builds electoral support in hard-hit areas, but not in areas where citizens may be uncertain about the costs of globalization. In communities with low levels of import penetration, a ten percent increase in the TAA certification rates decreases support for the incumbent party candidate by 3.8%. This electoral effect can incentivize politicians to under-provide economic assistance.