William G. Gale is a vice president and director of the Brookings Institution's Economic Studies program, where he holds the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Federal Economic Policy. He is also founding codirector of the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. Janet Rothenberg Pack is professor of business and public policy and real estate at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
When the news broke in 1975 that New York City was on the brink of fiscal collapse, few believed it was possible. How could the country’s largest metropolis fail? How could the capital of the financial world go bankrupt? Yet the city was indeed billions of dollars in the red, with no way to pay back its debts. Bankers and politicians alike seized upon the situation as evidence that social liberalism, which New York famously exemplified, was unworkable. The city had to slash services, freeze wages, and fire thousands of workers, they insisted, or financial apocalypse would ensue.
In this vivid account, historian Kim Phillips-Fein tells the remarkable story of the crisis that engulfed the city. With unions and ordinary citizens refusing to accept retrenchment, the budget crunch became a struggle over the soul of New York, pitting fundamentally opposing visions of the city against each other. Drawing on never-before-used archival sources and interviews with key players in the crisis, Fear City shows how the brush with bankruptcy permanently transformed New York—and reshaped ideas about government across America.
At once a sweeping history of some of the most tumultuous times in New York's past, a gripping narrative of last-minute machinations and backroom deals, and an origin story of the politics of austerity, Fear City is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the resurgent fiscal conservatism of today.
The book addresses annual and lifetime distributional effects, saving, investment, transitional problems, simplification, home ownership and housing prices, charitable groups, international taxation, financial intermediaries and insurance, labor supply, and health insurance.
In addition to Henry Aaron and William Gale, the contributors include Alan Auerbach, University of California, Berkeley; David Bradford, Princeton University; Charles Clotfelter, Duke University; Eric Engen, Federal Reserve; Don Fullerton, University of Texas; Jon Gruber, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Patric Hendershott, Ohio State; David Ling, University of Florida; Ronald Perlman, Covington & Burling; Diane Lim Rogers, Congressional Budget Office; John Karl Scholz, University of Wisconsin; Joel Slemrod, University of Michigan; and Robert Triest, University of California, Davis.