How Bureaucrats Represent Economic Interests: Partisan Control over Trade Adjustment Assistance
(Job market paper, under review) (Link)
Governments often rely on ostensibly neutral career bureaucrats to allocate policy benefits. I demonstrate that institutions designed to control the quality of bureaucrats, such as conditional tenure, can frustrate neutral allocation by inducing a president’s partisan control over career bureaucrats. I examine how career bureaucrats distribute Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits, the single largest federal program that compensates workers displaced by international trade. Exploiting the quasi-random assignment of TAA petitions to individual investigators at different stages of their careers, I find that career bureaucrats 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 increases in magnitude during periods of high alignment between labor and the Democratic party. The political sustainability of globalization depends on an institutional design that shapes the career incentives of bureaucrats.
Certifying Threat: The Electoral Logic of Economic Relief
(Co-authored with Robert Gulotty, under review) (Link)
The embedded liberalism thesis assumes that government compensation to those hurt by international competition sustains support for globalization. In practice, politicians do not consistently combine open trade policies with compensation. We explain this disconnect with a model of electoral competition, treating compensation as a choice made by informed politicians. Our model shows that compensation can provide electorally counter-productive information to voters. In particular, compensation can be informative about the negative effects of globalization. We test this theoretical implication with the data from the administration of the US Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, the Chinese import competition, and the 2008 presidential election. We find that compensation brings electoral backlash in regions where the informational value of compensation is high. That is, in communities with less exposure to Chinese import competition, a ten percent increase in the TAA certification rate decreases support for the candidate from the incumbent political party by 3.8%. When compensation certifies threat, compensation can suppress support for globalization.
Who Wants to Work at a Transparent International Organization?
(previously titled “Transparency, a Double-edged Sword for International Bureaucrats”) (Link)
International organizations (IOs), like all other organizations, need bureaucrats to function. When member states gather at an IO to conclude a negotiation, they would ideally have competent and responsive international bureaucrats that mediate their conflicts of interest. In this paper, I develop a formal model to delineate how transparency as an institutional feature inadvertently undermines the quality and performance of the international bureaucrats. My formal model predicts that competent international bureaucrats in equilibrium either perform passively or choose not to work at an IO under transparency. An increase in transparency would thus decrease the likelihood of the conclusion of negotiations. I test one of the theoretical predictions with the comparative case study of the leadership of the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and the relatively more transparent World Trade Organization (WTO). My findings indicate that the international bureaucrats adapt to the institutional design chosen by member states, and such adaptation makes an IO less appealing as a negotiating forum.