Systematic Thinking for Social Action

Brookings Institution Press
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How can we identify who benefits from government programs aimed at solving our social problem and who pays for them? With so many problems, how can we allocate scarce funds to promote the maximum well-being of our citizens?

In this book, originally presented as the third series of H. Rowan Gaither Lectures in Systems Science at the University of California (Berkeley). Alice M. Rivlin examines the contributions that systematic analysis has made to decisionmaking in the government's "social action" programs—education, health, manpower training, and income maintenance. Drawing on her own experience in government, Mrs. Rivlin indicates where the analysts have been helpful in finding solutions and where—because of inadequate data or methods—they have been no help at all.

Mrs. Rivlin concludes by urging the widespread implementation of social experimentation and acceptability by the federal government. The first in such a way as to permit valid conclusions about their effectiveness; the second would encourage the adoption of better ways of delivering services by making those who administer programs responsive to their clients. Underlying both is the requirement from comprehensive, reliable performance measures.

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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.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Dec 1, 2010
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Pages
150
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ISBN
9780815720584
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Public Affairs & Administration
Political Science / Public Policy / Social Policy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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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

NOW A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

NAMED A BEST/MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2018 BY: Chicago Tribune • Time

A stunning follow up to New York Times bestseller Tears We Cannot Stop

The Washington Post: "Passionately written."
Chris Matthews, MSNBC: "A beautifully written book."
Shaun King: “I kid you not–I think it’s the most important book I’ve read all year...”

Harry Belafonte: “Dyson has finally written the book I always wanted to read. .a tour de force...a poetically written work that calls on all of us to get back in that room and to resolve the racial crises we confronted more than fifty years ago.”

Joy-Ann Reid: A work of searing prose and seminal brilliance... Dyson takes that once in a lifetime conversation between black excellence and pain and the white heroic narrative, and drives it right into the heart of our current politics and culture, leaving the reader reeling and reckoning."

Robin D. G. Kelley:“Dyson masterfully refracts our present racial conflagration through a subtle reading of one of the most consequential meetings about race to ever take place. In so doing, he reminds us that Black artists and intellectuals bear an awesome responsibility to speak truth to power."

President Barack Obama: "Everybody who speaks after Michael Eric Dyson pales in comparison.”

In 2015 BLM activist Julius Jones confronted Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with an urgent query: “What in your heart has changed that’s going to change the direction of this country?” “I don’t believe you just change hearts,” she protested. “I believe you change laws.”

The fraught conflict between conscience and politics – between morality and power – in addressing race hardly began with Clinton. An electrifying and traumatic encounter in the sixties crystallized these furious disputes.

In 1963 Attorney General Robert Kennedy sought out James Baldwin to explain the rage that threatened to engulf black America. Baldwin brought along some friends, including playwright Lorraine Hansberry, psychologist Kenneth Clark, and a valiant activist, Jerome Smith. It was Smith’s relentless, unfiltered fury that set Kennedy on his heels, reducing him to sullen silence.

Kennedy walked away from the nearly three-hour meeting angry – that the black folk assembled didn’t understand politics, and that they weren’t as easy to talk to as Martin Luther King. But especially that they were more interested in witness than policy. But Kennedy’s anger quickly gave way to empathy, especially for Smith. “I guess if I were in his shoes...I might feel differently about this country.” Kennedy set about changing policy – the meeting having transformed his thinking in fundamental ways.

There was more: every big argument about race that persists to this day got a hearing in that room. Smith declaring that he’d never fight for his country given its racist tendencies, and Kennedy being appalled at such lack of patriotism, tracks the disdain for black dissent in our own time. His belief that black folk were ungrateful for the Kennedys’ efforts to make things better shows up in our day as the charge that black folk wallow in the politics of ingratitude and victimhood. The contributions of black queer folk to racial progress still cause a stir. BLM has been accused of harboring a covert queer agenda. The immigrant experience, like that of Kennedy – versus the racial experience of Baldwin – is a cudgel to excoriate black folk for lacking hustle and ingenuity. The questioning of whether folk who are interracially partnered can authentically communicate black interests persists. And we grapple still with the responsibility of black intellectuals and artists to bring about social change.

What Truth Sounds Like exists at the tense intersection of the conflict between politics and prophecy – of whether we embrace political resolution or moral redemption to fix our fractured racial landscape. The future of race and democracy hang in the balance.

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

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.

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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