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)
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.
Who Wants to Work at a Transparent International Organization?
(previously titled “Transparency, a Double-edged Sword for International Bureaucrats”)
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.