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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading for Any American
Red Ink explains, simply but powerfully, how the Federal Budget works, what we're spending money on, what we're taking in taxes, and how the Federal debt has become so huge. In page turning fashion, Wessel takes the reader on a tour of the debt, and spells out what it will take to get it under control. Money comes in, and money goes out, and the reason more goes out...
Published on August 1, 2012 by Dave Fox

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to hate this book but in the end it was a decent book
I wanted to hate this book because he starts off blaming Social Security. This is a sore spot for me. The truth is that Congress and our government have been looting Social Security to spend on other programs, defense mostly, for decades.

In the 70's, Congress changed the laws so they could lump Social Security dollars in with the general taxes, so they could...
Published 23 months ago by Yours truly,


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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading for Any American, August 1, 2012
This review is from: Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget (Hardcover)
Red Ink explains, simply but powerfully, how the Federal Budget works, what we're spending money on, what we're taking in taxes, and how the Federal debt has become so huge. In page turning fashion, Wessel takes the reader on a tour of the debt, and spells out what it will take to get it under control. Money comes in, and money goes out, and the reason more goes out than comes in comes down to a series of choices made over the decades that have literally mortgaged our future. The book is refreshingly non-partisan, coming from a Pulitzer winning author that sets out the facts, laying blame where appropriate without regard to political ideology, and offering common-sense options to reduce the debt.

Wessel explains the intricacies of a notoriously complex subject--the Federal budget--in a way that even American high schoolers can understand. That's why I am so excited about Red Ink, and why I would recommend it to anyone--conservatives, liberals, independents, and those averse to politics. It's a quick read that boils down the Federal budget and the debt to its essentials, and ignores all the noise that clouds the issue. The more people read this book and understand the stakes, the more confidence we can have that citizens will pressure their leaders, of both parties, to come together and save the country's finances.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Concise Book on the Federal Budget, August 7, 2012
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This review is from: Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget (Hardcover)
Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget by David Wessel

"Red Ink" is a very solid and concise book that provides the public with an essential understanding of how the Federal Budgetary process works. Pulitzer prize-winning author and economics editor for the Wall Street Journal, David Wessel takes the readers on a smooth ride through the US Federal Budgetary process. A book about the budgetary process can be dry and dull but Wessel's command of the topic and lucid prose makes this book a breeze to get through. This educational 208-page book is composed of the following five chapters: 1. Spending $400 Million An Hour, 2. How We Got Here, 3. Where the Money Goes, 4. Where the Money Comes From and Why this Can't Go On Forever.

Positives:
1. A well-written book, lucid and concise prose.
2. An important and perennial topic handled with expertise.
3. Does a very good job of covering the most important aspects of the Federal Budget in a brief intelligible manner.
4. Educational and enlightening book that provides a basic foundation in understanding the US Federal Budget.
5. Effective use of charts to illustrate points.
6. Fascinating tidbits and facts spruced throughout book.
7. Making it perfectly clear where all the money is spent. A nice and comprehensible breakdown.
8. Where nearly all the growth in the federal budget over the next ten years is coming from. Interesting.
9. Does a wonderful job of defining terms while smoothly immersing them in the narrative: deficit, debt, gross domestic product (GDP), etc...
10. A quick history of the federal budget in six pieces.
11. A look at Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Eye-opening stuff.
12. Presidential fiscal promises/policies that impacted the federal budget. A look at the most recent administrations.
13. So how did surpluses under the Clinton administration turn into deficits? A sound explanation.
14. Debunking myths.
15. How the US federal government gets money. The share of income paid in federal taxes of all kinds by Americans at different economic levels.
16. An interesting look at the financial mess Obama inherited and what policies he has implemented.
17. A look at the three poles of the federal budgetary debate: deficit is a problem but not now while unemployment is high, deficit is problem and the solution is to shrink the government and cut taxes, and finally, the deficit is a big problem and the solution is to cut spending and raise taxes.
18. Excellent notes and bibliography.

Negatives:
1. If you are not a supporter of Keynesian economics this book will be a hard pill to swallow.
2. A glossary of terms would have added value though the author does a good job of defining terms when he first introduces it.
3. A little humor never hurts.
4. In order to keep the book to a manageable level, some topics were sacrificed.
5. The book lacks depth. Appendices could have been added to go into supporting documents.

In summary, this was a solid book that was able to educate the public on the federal budget in a concise and lucid manner. If you are interested in learning the basics of the US Federal Budget this is a good book to start. Wessel keeps the book interesting by focusing on key topics without burdening the readers with big numbers and esoteric terms. If you are interested in learning about how the Federal Budgetary process works without having to invest too much time and effort this is a good book, I recommend it.

Further suggestions: "The Benefit and The Burden: Tax Reform-Why We Need It and What It Will Take" by Bruce Bartlett, "It's the Middle Class, Stupid!" by James Carville and Stan Greenberg, "Winner Take All: China's Race for Resources and What It Means for the World" by Dambisa Moyo, "End This Depression Now!" by Paul Krugman, "Beyond Outrage: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix them (Kindle Single)" by Robert B. Reich, "The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality" by Chris Mooney, "Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class" by Jacob S. Hacker, "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class - And What We Can Do about It (BK Currents (Paperback))" by Thom Hartmann, "The Monster: How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America--and Spawned a Global Crisis" by Michael W. Hudson, "Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich--and Cheat Everybody Else" by David Cay Johnston, and "The Looting of America" by Les Leopold.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes Good Points -, July 31, 2012
This review is from: Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget (Hardcover)
Wessel's first chapter reports our federal government spends $400 million/hour. How is that even possible? Wessel tells us, but we have to wait until chapter three. A 'hint' - nearly two thirds is on autopilot, per Wessel, not even requiring a vote from Congress. Unfortunately, that's a bit of an over-simplification - Congress can and does periodically reauthorize/modify the farm bill, for example.

The 'bad news' is that Wessel deals at an ideological level - eg. Ryan's approach to reforming health care which sounds good at a superficial level, but becomes total nonsense when one looks closer.

We spend about $700 billion/year on the military, about 20% of the total budget - more than most other nations combined. But we don't get much insight on the logic or lack thereof.

Firing every federal employee wouldn't save enough to even cut the deficit in half - only $435 billion in 2011. That means an awful lot goes to health care and transfer payments.

About half of America's spending on health comes from government.

The $700 billion bank bailout didn't cost nearly as much as initially feared. Only about $470 billion was disbursed, and about two-thirds has been paid off, with interest. The biggest losses - AIG and G.M. Meanwhile, we've pumped over $150 billion into Fannie and Freddie.

Most American families pay a lower share of their income in federal taxes than thirty years ago; we also pay less than citizens of nearly every other developed nation. However, it isn't clear what the means, given our huge deficits. What is clear, however is that 46% didn't pay any federal income taxes in 2011.

I laughed when reading Wessel's recap of Jude Wanniski's 'Two Santa Claus Theory.' Democrats, the party of income distribution, are best suited for the role of 'Spending Santa Claus.' Republicans, traditionally the party of income growth, should be the Santa Claus of Tax Reduction.' Lots of truth there.

When Reagan left office, federal spending was 20% higher, adjusted for inflation, than when he arrived. In the 20 years prior to Reagan (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter), budget deficits averaged less than 1% of GDP; Reagan's years brought an average of 4.25%. Bush II turned a string of annual federal surpluses he'd inherited into a nearly $12 trillion in cumulative deficits. Wessel contends a weak economy contributed $3.3 trillion of that, his two tax cuts brought another $2.8 trillion, increased spending added $4.3 trillion, and increased interest costs another $1.4 trillion.

Bush's prescription drug tab hit $60 billion in 2011, about 1/8 of all Medicare spending.

Citizenry misinformation and misunderstanding abounds, complicating efforts to reduce budget deficits. Eg. Respondents to a CNN poll mostly thought food stamps accounted for 10% of federal spending - closer to 2%. A 2008 Cornell Univ. poll found 44% of Social Security recipients and 40% of those on Medicare say they 'have not used a government social program.'

The Navy estimated each aircraft carrier costs over $11 billion. Yet, Congress wants to keep building them, despite growing concern they're obsolete in an age of supersonic missiles, etc.

And on and on we go, into the bowels of federal expenditures. The bad new, per Wessel, is this can't go on forever. But we can't agree either on when it will end, or how to fix the problems.
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53 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exposing the grand delusions of fiscal insanity, August 1, 2012
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This review is from: Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget (Hardcover)
It must be exceedingly difficult to write a book about the federal budget in a way that is interesting enough to hold a reader's attention. The process is mind-numbingly complex, while the numbers, measured in billions and trillions of dollars, are barely comprehensible. Furthermore, we've heard so much about how the "out of control budget deficit is going to bankrupt the nation and destroy our economy" that we've become jaded to books that beat us over the head with the warning yet again.

However, author David Wessel totally succeeds in explaining, in an interesting, logical, and easy-to-read way, the process whereby we've come to ACCEPT an intolerable budget deficit that people of all political stripes know perfectly well will wreck the nation. Wessel explodes the GRAND DELUSIONS of both parties that prevent them from doing anything of substance to restore fiscal sanity.

This book is interesting because Wessel combines the financial history that created the current federal budget monstrosity with human-interest stories of today's prominent fiscal philosophers like Paul Ryan on the Right and Paul Krugman on the Left. He also discusses the behind-the-scenes work of lesser-known public servants of both parties --- people like Leon Panetta, Richard Darman, and David Stockman who have wrestled with the issue of how to balance the government's tax revenues with its spending commitments for decades.

Wessel discusses these people and issues critically but fairly. Neither Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, Liberals, or Libertarians will find anything of mean-spirited partisanship to offend them. He generally describes the leaders of both parties as being delusional but well-meaning. Their main fault lies in being prisoners of political ideologies instead of rational observers of the real-world economy.

I also liked the book because it is an ideal blending of informal and anecdotal writing with scholarly number-crunching statistics. I didn't feel buried either by too many meaningless anecdotes or by too much mind-numbing statistical analysis.

The strongest aspect of the book is the way Wessel demolishes the grand delusions that have kept both our parties from acting to restore fiscal sanity:

Delusion #1: The American people are over-taxed
=====================================

Reality: Americans are the lowest-taxed people of any major country. During my lifetime of work, which started in 1980, there have been many rounds of tax cutting. There were the Reagan tax cuts of the 1980s that knocked the maximum rate down from 70% to 28% and indexed the brackets to inflation. These were followed by the Gingrich-inspired tax cuts on dividends and cap gains (combined with the Clinton-inspired addition of tax credits for dependent children) in the 1990s. Then there were the Bush Administration tax cuts in the 2000s that dropped the taxes on dividends and capital gains to 15% and expanded the credit for dependent children. In inflation-adjusted terms I make 4 times today what I earned 30 years ago in 1980 and pay less than half as much a percentage as taxes. Wessel shows statistically that my anecdotal experience typifies the norm: effective tax rates for the upper-middle class quintile have been reduced exactly 50% during those 30 years.

When taxes have been cut in half on a percentage basis, while Federal spending has roughly doubled in inflation-adjusted terms, then something's out of whack. You can't double the government's inflation-adjusted spending commitments during 30 years while cutting effective income tax rates by 50% without having a fiscal crisis. And my taxes are based on ordinary income. The super-wealthy have cut their taxes even more by shuffling the money into the 15% bracket for capital gains and dividends and then offsetting even most of that with dodgy deductions and tax shelters.

The Republicans like to tell us that our income tax rates are nominally among the highest in the world but they forget to mention that we can deduct all kinds of crazy things like mortgage interests on first AND SECOND homes! They also conveniently forget that other countries pay VAT taxes of 20% and excise taxes on items like gasoline of 300%.

Fact: Americans are NOT over-taxed, either relative to other countries, or where we need to be to balance the federal budget.

Delusion #2: Federal spending can be easily cut because the budget is filled with waste and fraud
=========================================================================

It's certainly true that there are thousands of outrageously bogus line-items in the Federal budget. However these are inconsequential in relation to the primary components of federal spending: Social Security at 20%, Medicaid and Medicare at 20%, other social welfare benefits 15%, military (including veteran's affairs), 20%, interest on the debt 6%, and "Everything else" 18%. So, what is there, really, to cut? Whenever the Democrats talk about wanting to cut back on Medicare Spending, the Republicans shout, "Obama wants to kill Granny!" Whenever the Republicans talk about cutting Medicare Spending, the Democrats run commercials showing a Paul Ryan lookalike pushing "Granny" over the cliff. The reality is that neither party can or will make any meaningful cuts to anything because Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the military are all "sacred cows" revered by both parties.

The fact is that spending will not be cut significantly, if at all. There's too much demographic pressure of an aging population to imagine that Social Security and Medicare, the fastest growing parts of the budget, will ever be cut. Lucky indeed if Federal spending can be frozen in place and then its growth rate constrained to be no greater than inflation.

Delusion #3: When the economy returns to "normal" we will grow our way out of the deficit
===================================================================

Republicans keep telling us that if we cut taxes even lower than what they already are, then the economy will accelerate in fantastic spurts of growth, perhaps as much as 5% a year. This seems to be the grandest delusion of all, because our economy has NEVER had sustainable growth faster than 3% a year. At best there are three or four good years of above-par growth followed by a recession that wipes half of it out. Democrats and Republicans always budget for increased spending every year on the false assumption that the economy will never go into recession. Well, we're in a Great Recession now that has gone on for four years and will continue for who knows how many more. I don't for a minute believe that cutting taxes will add an iota to growth. The wealthy and businesses already have way more capital than they need. They are parking it not in new and expanding businesses, but in T-bills that pay NEGATIVE interest. As long as the wealthy prefer to earn NEGATIVE interest instead of making new investments in productive business enterprises, the economy is going nowhere, even if taxes are cut to zero.

The book is most refreshing in that Wessel quotes a wide variety of Left-leaning and Right-leaning political leaders and economists who discuss their theories for restoring fiscal sanity. He moderates the discussion with his own ideas but generally assumes we're intelligent enough to listen to all viewpoints and form our own conclusions. My conclusion after reading this book is that the government is only ever going to be restored to fiscal sanity by:

1. Massively increasing taxes on the middle class and the wealthy. We've got to get rid of all of those crazy middle class deductions like letting people deduct the mortgage interest on their VACATION homes. We've got to raise the effective tax rate on the super-wealthy from 15% to at least 50%, preferably more. We may also need to impose a federal capitation tax on accumulated wealth. We made need to impose a broad-based VAT tax. I can just imagine everybody squawking and screaming, but the alternative is to bankrupt the country and maybe have everybody degenerate to a Stone Age standard of living. The idea of cutting corporate taxes is also absurd when most corporations have gamed the tax laws to the extent that many are paying their CEO's more money than they are paying Uncle Sam.

2. Implementing a new idea of growing the economy so that there will be enough corporations, small businesses, and individuals who earn enough profits and incomes to pay taxes on. The budget can't possibly be in balance when 20,000,000 formerly prosperous, tax-paying Americans are now twiddling their thumbs on the unemployment line or working part time jobs at minimum wage where income taxes are not assessed. I don't believe in the Republican idea of jumpstarting the economy with more tax cuts. Nor do I believe in the Democrat plan of putting people back to work by building prestige projects like bullet trains and wind farms. The only way the economy is going to grow, and tax revenues thereby increased, is to bring jobs back to the USA by preventing their offshoring with tariffs and domestic content requirements. I know this is a whole `nother issue, but it also vital to the discussion of how to raise tax revenues. While raising tax RATES will help to balance the budget, we'll never be able to close the deficit completely until the tax BASE is restored to full employment. That means getting the people who want to work back in the work force and employed at living-wage jobs where they earn enough income to pay taxes on.

Other readers may draw different conclusions than I do, but I think almost everybody who is open minded will at least agree that delusions #1, #2, and #3 are holding back our current political leadership in both parties from doing ANYTHING to restore fiscal sanity to our government's finances. Once they get beyond these delusions, they must look at the big picture of the economy and the government spending that composes around 25% of it and make BIG changes. Wessel concludes that the time is past when anyone in Washington can continue to believe that we can balance the budget by tweaking the small change. "Small changes will NOT suffice."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book for all the reasons I mentioned at first, and especially because it is FAIR AND BALANCED in busting the grand delusions that are holding both parties back from doing what has to be done to restore fiscal sanity. Are any of you politicians and public servants in Washington reading this book?
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read for those wanting the facts so as to make up their own mind, August 10, 2012
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Ed from Las Cruces (Las Cruces, New Mexico) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget (Hardcover)
David Wessell, a regular at the Wall Street journal, does a fine job of writing and summarizing the issues and challenges associated with modern day Congressional budgeting and, importantly, puts the challenge in the historical context of past decisions,and past beliefs and fallacies. He is critically objective with respect to actions by both political parties. The book is supported with non-partisan Congressional Budget Office data in meaningful but not overwhelming amounts and is presented in an almost conversational manner making the storyline flow and the asymmetries of particular positions politely obvious. I decided to read this book because, like so many, I am weary of not being able to discern the objective facts from the many partisan publications and broadcasts that seem more interested in convincing than proving a position. With this objective in mind, the book thoroughly met my expectations. I think it is equally fair to say that the conclusions reached probably more support the left's views of a balanced approach to cutting spending and selectively raising taxes than the unilateral "no tax increase" positions of the right. Along the way, however, Wessell puts today's crisis in a four decade perspective that takes aim at a lot of well-intentioned programs that have expanded far beyond original expectations, "auto-pilot" provisions of spending and tax bills that are now marching along creating fiscal havoc, and the myths and fallacies of what really happened to revenues and taxes under the leadership of both parties. He honestly sees and points out the extremes of economists on both sides of the Keynes/Hayek- Friedman divide and is critical of most of today's modern economic spokespersons as too rigid and wedded to an ideology. Accordingly, they embrace the opportunity to mount the argument but surrender the opportunity, except to their existing base of believers, to make a contribution to the solution.

With Wessell's book as a base, I would suggest that the reader interested in reading both sides of the debate, and then making up his or her mind, might want to read "The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future" By Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz and "First Principles: Five Keys to Restoring America's Prosperity" by Stanford's eminent economist, John B. Taylor. Stiglitz on the far left and Taylor on the far right. Neither book is satisfying because both are too extreme with respect to the reality of today's economic challenge--but they do reflect the entrenched positions of both sides in the current political debate. As an alternative--Plans like those developed by Simpson-Bowles and Dominici-Rivlin make an attempt to bridge the divide but probably fall short of the required "bottom-line"changes that are outlined in Wessell's final chapter entitled "Why This Can't Go On Forever". However, this book will provide a good framework for evaluating those options as well.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to hate this book but in the end it was a decent book, January 2, 2013
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Yours truly, "Sheri" (A Small Town in the Sierras, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget (Hardcover)
I wanted to hate this book because he starts off blaming Social Security. This is a sore spot for me. The truth is that Congress and our government have been looting Social Security to spend on other programs, defense mostly, for decades.

In the 70's, Congress changed the laws so they could lump Social Security dollars in with the general taxes, so they could spend any SS surplus just like general tax dollars. Social Security was never meant to be lumped with general tax income - by law. It was a self-funded program and was to be kept separate. So Social Security has been looted and bankrupted by our unscrupulous government for decades. In 1983, Congress enacted a Social Security tax increase to cover the ballooning benefit payments that would result from the retirement of the "baby boomers" beginning in 2010. The increase began generating even greater Social Security surpluses that didn't go unnoticed by the Reagan and Bush administrations which continued "dipping" into Social Security revenues and using them for non-Social Security purposes. President Clinton followed suit, and every administration since Clinton. This "bailout" increase in Social Security taxes would have brought the program back to healthy levels despite being pillaged by our government, except our government simply spent that additional money on other programs too. When we had a budget surplus in the Clinton administration, Clinton suggested we "bail out" Social Security with the 60 million budget surplus, when in fact, in that year, our government took 300 million out of Social Security to spend on other programs. Hardly a "bail out" to put sixty of it back in, and we didn't even do that.

In addition, Social Security is still generating surpluses. For 2012, Social Security income was 855.1 billion dollars and outlay was 779.4 billion dollars. Please verify this yourself. You can download a pdf file called: "Federal Trust Fund Income, Outlays, and Balances" from the census.gov website.

So, when Wessel started blaming Social Security for our Federal Budget deficit, I started seeing red. Wessel never explains any of the truth about Social Security. But, I persevered and in the end what Wessel actually pins the blame on is Medicare and our Defense Budget. That's the bottom line. I'm perfectly okay with that. He still leaves the impression that Social Security is one of the culprits. But, he barely escapes outright lies. He simply says that by 2030, Social Security will no longer be solvent - but he implies that SS is already a drain on our Federal Budget, when in fact it's the opposite. (Yeah, because our government won't stop plundering it.)

As an aside: I no longer vote for either Republican or Democratic candidates for any office. I vote out all incumbents in every election. Pitiful, isn't it? I wrote to my congressmen and asked them to stop raiding Social Security. They wrote back and said they would do everything in their power to stop raiding SS. Then, I followed their actual voting record to discover they did the opposite - voting against bills introduced to stop raiding SS.

Misinformation like we encounter in Wessel's book doesn't help. His point of view is (most likely) that the looting of Social Security is history and with things the way the are, Social Security will become a burden. That doesn't work for me. That's like saying Watergate or Monica Lewinsky happened but we should just move on as if it didn't happen. Like the holocaust or slavery happened but we should just move on as if it didn't happen. When a government is bad, you don't just go on as if it's fine. And you don't incorporate that idea in a book about the Federal Budget and our deficit. I gave Wessel two stars which he probably didn't deserve, with his misinformation.

Another thing that irritated me was Wessel claiming we pay extremely low taxes. Obviously he's not adding up all the taxes we pay: Federal, State, County and Local taxes plus all the million and one "special taxes" (inheritance, gasoline, highway tolls, liquor, etc.). All together, we pay way over 50% in taxes. If we earn a dollar, it's taxed 35% or whatever, then if we spend that dollar, it's taxed again (sales tax plus any special tax) plus if we spend that dollar on a home it's not only taxed again, but it's taxed again every year (property taxes). Same deal for spending that dollar on a car (after sales tax there are annual registration taxes). If we don't spend that dollar at all, it gets taxed again when our children inherit it. Year in and year out, our crummy dollar gets taxed over and over and over. Oh, yeah, and when our already taxed dollar goes to the government for our retirement, the govt. not only steals that dollar, but they tax it again.

I looked up the figures to make sure I was correct about the taxes we pay. Figures show that about 40% of our total taxes (excluding special taxes) are state and local. So, at the higher federal tax bracket of 35%, and doing the math: state and local taxes would bring that figure up to 58% of our income paid out in taxes. People, that's almost 60% of our income taken away before we even consider special taxes like liquor, gasoline, inheritance, etc. For a single person making $35,000/year ($680/week or $17/hour) or more (federal tax bracket 25%) that works out to 42% paid out in federal, state and local tax (still excluding special taxes). And let's not forget the huge number of "assessments" (additional taxes without the name): sewer assessments, fire fighters assessments, etc. So, it's a little insulting to read about how we pay the lowest taxes in the world.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE FOR THE FEDERAL BUDGET CRISIS!", July 31, 2012
This review is from: Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget (Hardcover)
Best-selling author David Wessel delivers a behind-the-scenes political view at this country's Debt Crisis, provides facts from political expert advice on what went wrong, and how to fix it. The Federal Budget was debated in Congress, but misunderstood by the general public. The author provides facts on where the money was spent for 2011, and why the Budget process has gone out-of-control. Through the eyes of political experts on Management of the Budget, essential facts are presented on what to do next. The information provided is concise, informative, comprehensive,and insightful on the unstable Budget. Helpful information is offered on how to make it change for the better. Highly Recommended!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brief, impartial overview of the deficit/debt problem, August 30, 2012
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This review is from: Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget (Hardcover)
A few years ago David Wessel wrote In FED We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on the Great Panic, which remains to my mind the best account of monetary policy during the financial crisis. Based on extensive interviews and other reporting, "In Fed We Trust" is likely to continue be read for many years. Wessel's new book has a more limited goal in that it is clearly intended as background to the debates taking place during and immediately after the 2012 presidential election. It is brief -- only about 160 fairly small pages -- and is intended as a summary of the state of the federal budget deficit and the debate over the national debt as of mid-2012. By next year, when new policies with respect to the budget are likely to be in place, this book will be out of date.

Although "Red Ink" lacks the depth of Wessel's earlier book, it is still very useful. He provides a good overview of the causes of the large budget deficits and the likely consequences of continuing to run large deficits into the indefinite future, which at this point seems like a real possibility. He provides an evenhanded explanation of the policy changes necessary to tame the deficit -- none of them too palatable, unfortunately. He also recounts brief interviews with economists and policymakers on both sides of the debate. Unlike many books of this sort, Wessel provides endnotes that make it possible to consult his sources.

The only significant shortcoming is that, like so many books published these days, this book has a number of typos. For instance, when he states that Congress cut NASA's budget by $250 billion in 2011, he surely means $250 million. Similarly, George Bush ran for president in 2000, not 2006. These typos are easy to spot as errors, but they make you wonder what other mistakes might have slipped by that are less easy to spot.

These are quibbles, though. If you are looking for a quick read that will get you up to speed with the debate over the federal budget, it would be hard to do better than this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone's primer, August 22, 2012
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This review is from: Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget (Hardcover)
David Wessel, a must-read columnist for the Wall Street Journal, has produced a near-perfect must-read primer on the fiscal mess that the federal budget is in. Eschewing policy, he lays out the numbers needed by everyone who wishes to be knowledgeable about this complex subject, whether liberal or conservative or just worried. Armed with the numbers in this brief book, any reader can analyze the "solutions" that politicians and policy wonks are tossing at us -- most of which, as Wessel's numbers show, are problematic at best and fabrications at worst. "Red Ink" is clear, is precise, is short, is highly informative and truly helpful.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy primer to understand the current issue with our budget, September 13, 2012
This review is from: Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget (Hardcover)
This was a very fast read with mostly accurate information. My wife also read the book and pointed out some inaccurate statements regarding business partner tax liability (she happens to work in a tax department). This may have been an oversight. Overall it was well written and easy to understand.
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Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget
Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget by David Wessel (Hardcover - July 31, 2012)
$22.00 $17.10
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