Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Affairs and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Peter Kobrak

Second Advisor

Dr. Ronald C. Kramer


Symbolism and substance are essential parts of any political system. In our system of government, we typically think of symbolism as serving substantive ends. Using a triangulation of _methods (Participant Observation, Archival Data, and Documentary Evidence), the paper examines two cases (Social Security and criminal justice) and concludes that the mix between substance and symbolism has changed dramatically in recent years with symbolism now assuming the central role.

The current debates over Social Security funding and criminal justice sanctions, for example, are less about the concerns of old-age security or making the public safer as much as they reflect a type of class war in which employee pay and benefits are being systematically eroded and the "surplus" labor force is being defined as the dangerous classes. The problems in both areas are rooted in our economic system; that is, political leadership is following a "get poor" strategy by bidding down employee costs in an effort to compete with other low wage nations. This type of leadership is short-term and sacrifices the nation's longer-term prosperity.

A key recommendation for addressing the potential Social Security funding shortfall as well as providing an alternative sanction in the criminal justice system is to implement a full employment budget. An important part of achieving full employment is by creating an investment budget that effectively forces lawmakers to invest in the infrastructure and other public works. It is with a full employment agenda that we can provide jobs for everyone seeking them and, concomitantly, lay the foundation for our future security through the enhanced productivity of the labor force. This recommendation is in line with full employment proposals dating back at least to the 1940s.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access