xxvii, 509 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
"We Are Better Than This fundamentally reframes budget debates in the United States. Author Edward D. Kleinbard explains how the public's preoccupation with tax policy alone has obscured any understanding of government's ability to complement the private sector through investment and insurance programs that enhance the general welfare and prosperity of our society at large. He argues that when we choose how government should spend and tax, we open a window into our "fiscal soul," because those choices are the means by which we express the values we cherish and the regard in which we hold our fellow citizens. Though these values are being diminished by short-sighted decisions to starve government, strategic government spending can directly make citizens happier, healthier, and even wealthier. Expertly combining the latest economic research with his insider knowledge of the budget process into a simple yet compelling narrative, he unmasks the tax mythologies and false arguments that too often dominate contemporary discourse about budget policies. Large quantities of comparative data are succinctly distilled to situate the United States among its peer countries, so that readers can judge for themselves whether contemporary budget choices really reflect our aspirational fiscal soul. Kleinbard's presentation takes a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing on economics, finance, law, political science and moral philosophy. He uniquely weaves economic research and moral philosophy together by emphasizing our welfare, not just our national income, and by contrasting the actual beliefs of Adam Smith, a great moral philosopher, with the cartoon version of the man presented by proponents of the most extreme forms of private market triumphalism"-- Provided by publisher.
"A book which examines how government - which is to say, all of us, acting collectively - can make our country healthier, wealthier and happier, if we put government to useful work in those areas where it most productively complements our private markets"-- Provided by publisher.
Includes bibliographical references (pages 461-482) and index.
A nation of jerks? -- Taxing and spending, or spending and taxing? -- What's moral philosophy got to do with this? -- A Dutch uncle to all -- The book's ambitions -- The book's data sources -- A closing apology -- pt. I. Our fiscal soul in peril. 1. The happiness of society : Fiscal policy and our happiness ; The instruments of fiscal policy ; Other tools of government ; National welfare is not national income ; What does GDP actually measure? ; Alternative welfare measures ; Equality of opportunity -- 2. Our descent from moral philosophy to narcissism : The villains in this drama ; Adam Smith, moralist and mensch ; Neoliberalism ; Marketplace freedoms, political liberties ; Neoliberal thinking in action ; Did soup kitchens cause the great recession? ; Market triumphalism -- 3. Our dismal report card : Grading our performance ; Who grades us? ; Sagging median incomes, collapsing wealth ; Hours worked ; International comparisons ; Long-term employment trends ; Poverty ; Income and wealth inequality ; Economic mobility ; What have we bought for all this? ; Welfare is the ultimate metric -- 4. Inequality defenders, deniers, and dissemblers : Inequality defenders ; Inequality deniers ; Inequality dissemblers -- 5. The growth fairy : The redistribution ogre ; The growth fairy narrative ; A background of low tax rates ; Empirical studies: Individual labor and savings ; Empirical studies: Business income ; Top-down economic models ; Growth effects of government investment ; Income growth or welfare growth? --
pt. II. Starving our fiscal soul. 6. A field guide to false fiscal crises : Our Procrustean framing of fiscal policy ; The federal budget, debt, and deficits ; Budget brinksmanship ; The great recession ; Where are we heading? ; A tale of two budgets ; Spending: squeezing blood from the stone -- 7. An overweight government? : A two-fisted spender? ; Military spending ; Healthcare ; Fifty shades of grey...American: social security ; Fifty shades of grey...Americans: medicare ; Means-tested income support programs -- 8. Are high taxes killing us? : The United States is a low-tax paradise ; Composition of taxes ; Everyone pays taxes ; Economic incidence of taxation ; Shares of total tax burden ; Effective and marginal tax rates ; A progressive tax system? -- 9. The hidden hand of government spending : Our subsurface spending programs ; Government-subsidized private healthcare ; Economic implications of tax expenditures ; Budget process and presentation concerns ; Evaluating tax expenditures on the merits ; How much is at stake? ; Who benefits? ; The sacred tax cows of personal itemized deductions: it's them or us ; Low taxes yet high pain --
pt. III. Reclaiming our fiscal soul. 10. Government investment : The many faces of investment ; Infrastructure ; Education -- 11. Government as insurer : What is insurance? ; Social insurance ; The social value of insurance ; Healthcare insurance ; Other social insurance programs ; Social insurance and "redistribution" ; Aristotelian fallacies and Jason the surfer -- 12. From a progressive tax to a progressive fiscal system : Progressive taxation versus a progressive fiscal system ; What's so good about progressive taxation? ; Tax progressivity in contemporary application ; Two levers of progressivity ; Progressive fiscal systems and happiness ; Progressive fiscal systems and efficiency -- 13. The better base case : Focus of the better base case ; Right-sizing spending ; Right-sizing revenues ; Additional revenues ; Fundamental tax reform: nice but unnecessary ; Really fundamental income tax reform ; The dual business enterprise income tax -- 14. We are better than this : Moving forward ; The pursuit of happiness.