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Downsizing the Federal Government Hardcover – October 24, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"In an era of rapid technology change and business innovation, the federal government remains a bloated and duplicative dinosaur. Chris Edwards brilliantly shows us how to downsize its operations and makes a convincing case that 'less is more' when it comes to government. This is the blueprint for reform that should be read by every American interested in policy and every candidate for Congress and the presidency."

--Donald Lambro, Chief Political Correspondent, Washington Times

"In this important new book, Chris Edwards provides fresh insights to understanding a Washington establishment that has grown far too big. He presents a bold and detailed plan to reduce the size of the government and take a first step to restoring America's heritage of liberty. Every taxpayer should read this book."

--John Berthoud, President, National Taxpayers Union

"Yes, government is fat and this book prescribes a radical diet, plus surgery, to get its weight down. Many will take offense at some of the proposed spending cuts, but the need for America to start living within its means cannot be denied. Read this book to see how deep our fiscal hole is and one brave and bruising way out."

--Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN)

"A responsible program-by-program set of proposals to get the federal government within reasonable limits. Utopian, indeed, but only to those who are blind to the dystopia that looms."

--James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate in Economics

"One of the great disappointments of Republican rule is the failure to get spending under control. In this well-researched book, Chris Edwards shows one way, and there are others. Such proposals need to be taken seriously to put the federal budget on a sustainable path."

--James C. Miller III, Director, White House Office of Management and Budget, 1985-1988

"Most conservatives wave their arms about cutting spending, but do nothing. Chris Edwards has finally shown how it can be done."

--Isabel V. Sawhill, Vice President and Director, Economic Studies, Brookings Institution

About the Author

Chris Edwards is director of tax policy at the Cato Institute and was formerly senior economist on the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Cato Institute (October 24, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1930865821
  • ISBN-13: 978-1930865822
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,117,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chris Edwards is a top expert on federal and state tax and budget issues. Before joining Cato in 2001, Edwards was senior economist on the congressional Joint Economic Committee examining tax, budget, and entrepreneurship issues. From 1994 to 1998, he was a consultant and manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers examining fiscal issues being considered by Congress. From 1992 to 1994, he was an economist with the Tax Foundation. Edwards' articles on tax and budget policies have appeared in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Investor's Business Daily, and other newspapers. He is the author of Downsizing the Federal Government and co-author of Global Tax Revolution. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in economics. He also manages www.downsizinggovernment.org.

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Top Customer Reviews

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Many believe, in some visceral way, that the federal government is beyond gargantuan, so when I came across Chris Edwards' book, Downsizing the Federal Government, I thought, "Great! Someone has done the math and put together a plan."

My second thought was, "What's his agenda?" And so I checked his bio and found that it must be a Libertarian agenda because he is Director of Tax Policy at the Cato Institute. Okay, fine, at least I know where Edwards is coming from.

Armed with this knowledge, I began to read. "Downsizing" is refreshingly accessible--the language is clear and the plentiful graphs and tables should be easily understood by readers who paid attention in high school. I detected little of the disheartening doubletalk that occurs when someone is trying to promote their own interests at your expense.

For example, I'm sure we're all in favor of cutting "wasteful" federal programs, but how do you define what is wasteful? The author defines five categories on page 3, and they do not seem to be politically or culturally overloaded.

In all, Edwards proposes about $400 billion worth of cuts. In a federal budget of $2.5 trillion, it seems a reasonable goal. Where one might expect him to slash entitlements such as Medicare, he trims. Claims are supported by data; for instance, the author suggests privatizing the air traffic control system, pointing out that it has been successfully done in Canada and other countries--at least partially--and detailing a history of poor management in the agency. On the other hand, his proposed cuts under the category of "actively damaging programs," are more difficult to evaluate, since he relies on work by other think tanks whose methodologies and points-of-view would probably be unknown to the average reader.
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Instead of advocating tax increases in the name of fiscal responsibility, this book focuses on how the bloated federal budget ($2.5 trillion in 2005, or about 20% of gross domestic product) could be reduced if our leaders put their minds to it.

Mr. Edwards argues that many current federal programs are harmful (e.g., import restrictions), unduly beneficial to special interests (agricultural subsidies, corporate welfare), and/or better left to the states (education) or private sector (rail transportation).

One special problem is government grants, which are used by the federal government to influence programs of state or local governments. Some $426 billion in grants were paid out in 2005, ranging from $186 billion for the federal share of Medicaid to "hundreds of more obscure programs that most taxpayers have never heard of." The result is to encourage overspending for the stated grant purposes, foster federal, state and local bureaucracies to document compliance with federal mandates, and reduce flexibility and innovation at the state level.

Another problem is duplication. Different federal programs often have overlapping objectives, resulting in "turf wars" and/or unnecessary costs to ensure coordination. Thus, the GAO has reported 50 different programs for the homeless in eight federal agencies, 23 programs for housing aid in four agencies, 26 programs for food and nutrition aid in six agencies, and 44 programs for employment and training services in nine agencies. If a program is ineffective or obsolete, the typical response is to create additional programs -- without eliminating the existing program.

Edwards lists more than 100 programs and agencies as candidates for elimination, with resultant savings of $380 billion per year.
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First off, let me state that the price of this book has no correlation with its value. At the moment I see that there is an amazon z shop copy of the paperback edition available for only a penny. This has nothing to do with the worth of the product though. What I suspect is that Cato, the publisher, printed copies and made them available for free in order to get the word out. I'm fairly certain this is why there are so many copies in circulation, and, thus, why the price is so low (happily, I got mine a couple of weeks ago for only a penny too).

Long has the USA been slouching towards socialism but I believe that we now stand on the precipice of socialism completely destabilizing our economy and dooming our collective prospects. I know this to be true due to the fact that the bond rating service Moodys is now considering a reduction in our bond ratings due to our government not being able to meet its healthcare and pension obligations. What will our representatives do to solve the crisis? Well, they'll raise taxes and make emotional appeals "for the kids" or "for the elderly." The last thing they'll ever do is follow the excellent plan Mr. Edwards sets forth in Chapter 4. His plan--which really is very modest--would cut spending by 380 billion a year. This does not sound like much in lieu of our recently announced 3.1 billion dollar budget, yet it would be enough to place us back upon the road to solvency. At the very least, it would make balancing the budget on an annual basis a distinct possibility.

When Barack Obama talks about "change" the very last thing he longs to do is actually change anything.
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