Restoring Fiscal Sanity: How to Balance the Budget

Brookings Institution Press
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The United States is standing at a critical juncture in its fiscal outlook. After experiencing a brief period of budget surpluses at the turn of the century, the federal government will run deficits that add about $4 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. Substantial deficits will likely continue long into the future because the looming retirement of the baby boom generation will raise spending in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. At the same time, the federal government appears to be neglecting spending in key areas of social and economic policy. The nation thus faces a vital choice: continue down a path toward future fiscal crisis while under investing in critical areas, or increase resources in high-priority areas while also reducing the overall budget deficit. This choice will materially affect Americans' economic status and security in the immediate future as well as over long horizons. In R estoring Fiscal Sanity, a group of Brookings scholars with high-level government experience provide an overview of the country's likely medium- and long-term spending needs and the resources available to pay for them. They propose three alternative fiscal paths that are more responsible than the current path. One plan emphasizes spending cuts, the second emphasizes revenue increases, and a third is a balanced mix between the two.

The contributors address the policy choices in such areas as defense, homeland security, international assistance, and programs targeted to the less advantaged, the elderly, and other domestic priorities. In the process, they provide an understanding of the short- and long-run trade offs and illustrate how the budget can be reshaped to achieve high priority objectives in a fiscally responsible way.

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About the author

Alice M. Rivlin is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution and visiting professor at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. She has been director of both the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office, and has served as vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board. Among her previous books is Beyond the Dot.coms: The Economic Promise of the Internet (Brookings, 2001), written with Robert Litan.

Isabel Sawhill is vice president and director of the Economic Studies program at the Brookings Institution. She served as associate director of the Office of Management and Budget.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Mar 29, 2004
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Pages
138
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ISBN
9780815796398
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Public Finance
Political Science / Public Policy / Economic Policy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Alice M. Rivlin
The American dream is fading: for nearly two decades, the economy has been performing below par, the quality of life has deteriorated, and the government has not confronted the public problems that concern citizens most. In this provocative book, Alice Rivlin offers a straightforward, nontechnical look at the issues threatening the American dream and proposes a solution: restructure responsibilities between the federal and state government.

Under her plan, the federal government would eliminate most of its programs in education, housing, highways, social services, economic development, and job training, enabling it to move the federal budget from deficit toward surplus. States would pick up these responsibilities, carrying out a "productivity agenda" to revitalize the American economy. Common shared taxes would give the state adequate revenues to carry out their tasks and would reduce intrastate competition and disparities. The federal government would be freer to deal with increasingly complex international issues and would retain responsibility for programs requiring national uniformity. A primary federal job would be the reform of health care financing to ensure control of costs and to mandate basic insurance coverage for everyone.

Published in the summer of 1992, Reviving the American Dream was read by presidential candidate Bill Clinton; by year's end, President Clinton appointed its author, Alice Rivlin, as deputy budget director. Today, the ideal in Rivlin's book—and Rivlin herself—are having an impact inside the administration.

Selected as one of Choice magazine's Outstanding Books of 1993

Isabel V. Sawhill
In the United States, long considered the land of opportunity, children born into different types of families begin life with very unequal prospects. A growing group of children is being raised in families in which a poorly educated mother begins childbearing at an early age, often outside marriage, and ends up dependent on public welfare. Another group is raised by parents who delay childbearing until they are well-educated, married, and have stable jobs; these children go on to lead more advantageous lives. While virtually everyone talks about the importance of investing in the next generation, in the late 1990s federal spending on children represented only 2 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. This volume argues forcefully that the life prospects of children at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder can be improved substantially—and the growing gap between them and more privileged children reduced—by making appropriate investments now. Taking their cue on funding from the Blair government in the United Kingdom, which since 1997 has invested almost an extra 1 percent of GDP to reducing child poverty, the contributors offer specific proposals, along with their rationales and costs, to improve early childhood education and health care, bolster family income and work, reduce teen pregnancy, encourage and strengthen marriage, and allow families to move to better neighborhoods. The final chapter assesses the progress of the Blair government toward reaching its goals. Contributors include Isabel Sawhill (Brookings Institution), Greg Duncan (Northwestern University), Katherine Magnuson (Columbia University), Andrea Kane (Brookings Institution), Sara McLanahan (Princeton University), Irwin Garfinkel (Columbia University), Robert Haveman (University of Wisconsin–Madison), Jens Ludwig (Georgetown University), David Armor (George Mason University), Barbara Wolfe (University of Wisconsin–Madison), Scott Scrivner (Public/Private Ventures), and John Hills (London School of Economics).
Isabel V. Sawhill
The Brookings Institution's Welfare Reform & Beyond Initiative was created to inform the critical policy debates surrounding the upcoming congressional reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and a number of related programs that were created or dramatically altered by the 1996 landmark welfare reform legislation. The goal of the project has been to take the large volume of existing and forthcoming research studies and shape them into a more coherent and policy-oriented whole. This capstone collection gathers twenty brief essays (published between January 2001 and February 2002) that focus on assessing the record of welfare reform, specific issues likely to be debated before the TANF reauthorization, and a broader set of policy options for low-income families. It is a reader-friendly volume that will provide policymakers, the press, and the interested public with a comprehensive guide to the numerous issues that must be addressed as Congress considers the future of the nation's antipoverty policies. The collection covers the following topics and features a new introduction from the editors: - An Overview of Effects to Date - Welfare Reform Reauthorization: An Overview of Problems and Issues - A Tax Proposal for Working Families with Children - Welfare Reform and Poverty - Reducing Non-Marital Births - Which Welfare Reforms are Best for Children? - Welfare and the Economy - What Can Be Done to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Out-of-Wedlock Births? - Changing Welfare Offices - State Programs - Welfare Reform and Employment - Fragile Families, Welfare Reform, and Marriage - Health Insurance, Welfare, and Work - Helping the Hard-to-Employ - Sanctions and Welfare Reform - Child Care and Welfare Reform - Job Retention and Advancement in Welfare Reform - Housing and Welfare Reform - Non-Citizens - Block Grant Structure - Food Stamps - Work Support System - Possible Welfare Reform in the Cities
Alice M. Rivlin
The United States is standing at a critical juncture in its fiscal outlook. After experiencing a brief period of budget surpluses at the turn of the century, the federal government will run deficits that add about $4 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. Substantial deficits will likely continue long into the future because the looming retirement of the baby boom generation will raise spending in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. At the same time, the federal government appears to be neglecting spending in key areas of social and economic policy. The nation thus faces a vital choice: continue down a path toward future fiscal crisis while under investing in critical areas, or increase resources in high-priority areas while also reducing the overall budget deficit. This choice will materially affect Americans' economic status and security in the immediate future as well as over long horizons. In R estoring Fiscal Sanity, a group of Brookings scholars with high-level government experience provide an overview of the country's likely medium- and long-term spending needs and the resources available to pay for them. They propose three alternative fiscal paths that are more responsible than the current path. One plan emphasizes spending cuts, the second emphasizes revenue increases, and a third is a balanced mix between the two.

The contributors address the policy choices in such areas as defense, homeland security, international assistance, and programs targeted to the less advantaged, the elderly, and other domestic priorities. In the process, they provide an understanding of the short- and long-run trade offs and illustrate how the budget can be reshaped to achieve high priority objectives in a fiscally responsible way.

Isabel V. Sawhill
The Brookings Institution's Welfare Reform & Beyond Initiative was created to inform the critical policy debates surrounding the upcoming congressional reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and a number of related programs that were created or dramatically altered by the 1996 landmark welfare reform legislation. The goal of the project has been to take the large volume of existing and forthcoming research studies and shape them into a more coherent and policy-oriented whole. This capstone collection gathers twenty brief essays (published between January 2001 and February 2002) that focus on assessing the record of welfare reform, specific issues likely to be debated before the TANF reauthorization, and a broader set of policy options for low-income families. It is a reader-friendly volume that will provide policymakers, the press, and the interested public with a comprehensive guide to the numerous issues that must be addressed as Congress considers the future of the nation's antipoverty policies. The collection covers the following topics and features a new introduction from the editors: - An Overview of Effects to Date - Welfare Reform Reauthorization: An Overview of Problems and Issues - A Tax Proposal for Working Families with Children - Welfare Reform and Poverty - Reducing Non-Marital Births - Which Welfare Reforms are Best for Children? - Welfare and the Economy - What Can Be Done to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Out-of-Wedlock Births? - Changing Welfare Offices - State Programs - Welfare Reform and Employment - Fragile Families, Welfare Reform, and Marriage - Health Insurance, Welfare, and Work - Helping the Hard-to-Employ - Sanctions and Welfare Reform - Child Care and Welfare Reform - Job Retention and Advancement in Welfare Reform - Housing and Welfare Reform - Non-Citizens - Block Grant Structure - Food Stamps - Work Support System - Possible Welfare Reform in the Cities
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