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White House Burning: Our National Debt and Why It Matters to Youby Simon Johnson
Synopses & Reviews
America is mired in debt—more than $30,000 for every man, woman, and child. Bitter fighting over deficits, taxes, and spending bedevils Washington, D.C., even as partisan gridlock has brought the government to the brink of default. Yet the more politicians on both sides of the aisle rant and the citizenry fumes, the more things seem to remain the same.
In White House Burning, Simon Johnson and James Kwak—authors of the national best seller 13 Bankers and cofounders of The Baseline Scenario, a widely cited blog on economics and public policy—demystify the national debt, explaining whence it came and, even more important, what it means to you and to future generations. They tell the story of the Founding Fathers’ divisive struggles over taxes and spending. They chart the rise of the almighty dollar, which makes it easy for the United States to borrow money. They account for the debasement of our political system in the 1980s and 1990s, which produced today’s dysfunctional and impotent Congress. And they show how, if we persist on our current course, the national debt will harm ordinary Americans by reducing the number of jobs, lowering living standards, increasing inequality, and forcing a sudden and drastic reduction in the government services we now take for granted.
But Johnson and Kwak also provide a clear and compelling vision for how our debt crisis can be solved while strengthening our economy and preserving the essential functions of government. They debunk the myth that such crucial programs as Social Security and Medicare must be slashed to the bone. White House Burning looks squarely at the burgeoning national debt and proposes to defuse its threat to our well-being without forcing struggling middle-class families and the elderly into poverty.
Carefully researched and informed by the same compelling storytelling and lucid analysis as 13 Bankers, White House Burning is an invaluable guide to the central political and economic issue of our time. It is certain to provoke vigorous debate.
From the authors of the national bestseller 13 Bankers, a chilling account of America’s unprecedented debt crisis: how it came to pass, why it threatens to topple the nation as a superpower, and what needs to be done about it.
With bracing clarity, White House Burning explains why the national debt matters to your everyday life. Simon Johnson and James Kwak describe how the government has been able to pay off its debt in the past, even after the massive deficits incurred as a result of World War II, and analyze why this is near-impossible today. They closely examine, among other factors, macroeconomic shifts of the 1970s, Reaganism and the rise of conservatism, and demographic changes that led to the growth of major—and extremely popular—social insurance programs. What is unquestionably clear is how recent financial turmoil exacerbated the debt crisis while creating a political climate in which it is even more difficult to solve.
About the Author
Simon Johnson is Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He is a member of the Congressional Budget Office’s Panel of Economic Advisers and of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Systemic Resolution Advisory Committee. He was previously the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund.
James Kwak is an associate professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law. He is currently a fellow at the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance. He has also worked as a management consultant and cofounded a software company.
Johnson and Kwak cofounded The Baseline Scenario, a widely cited blog on economics and public policy. They also wrote 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown (Pantheon, 2010), a bestselling analysis of the financial system and the recent financial crisis.
Visit them at: http://baselinescenario.com/
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