Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Battle for Credit

How do blaming and crediting affect policy outcomes, and what are the constraints that reputation-concerned politicians face in commenting about bureaucrats? On one hand, politicians may want to claim credit when things go well and deflect blame when outcomes go awry. On the other, the distribution of blame and credit not only affects politicians’ reputations but also those of bureaucratic agencies and potentially their willingness to work over time. To investigate this tension, we develop and analyze a model where a bureaucrat cares about his reputation vis-`a-vis an interested audience, and the politician can blame the bureaucrat for failed policies or give credit for successes via cheap talk. We show that the bureaucrat can be induced to exert more effort through blame and credit, but the politician is constrained in communicating by considerations for future effort and her own reputation concerns.