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Why Budgets Matter: Budget Policy and American Politics Hardcover – May 12, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


It is said that some governments go over their budgets very carefully, while others do it without even noticing.  Ippolito manages to convey something fresh and new about both the revenue and expenditure sides of budgets in this well-written and comprehensive text. But what I found astonishing about the book is its ambition:  it explains why the federal budget works as it does, rather than just describing the process. Ippolito's main thesis, that the tendency toward deficits and growth of government is a product of larger forces in American politics, looked like an anachronism just two years ago. But deficits are back.  This book couldn't be more timely, and it couldn't be more important. --Michael Munger, Duke University

A comprehensive, clear, and valuable account of the exceedingly complex history of federal budgeting. Ippolito succeeds admirably. --Louis Fisher, Congressional Research Service

Dennis Ippolito offers the reader an invaluable historical review of American budgeting from the founding of the Republic through the contemporary period. As of now, there is no other publication of this breadth. --James D. Savage, University of Virginia

From the Inside Flap

Much of what government does depends on money. From the nation's founding until today, conflicts over the powers to tax, spend, and borrow have been at the heart of American politics. Why Budgets Matter is a comprehensive account of how these conflicts over budget policy have shaped national politics by determining the size and role of the federal government.

The history of budget policy provides a unique perspective on political change in the United States and helps explain how and why the federal government has grown over time. Dennis Ippolito reviews the different stages of this development-from the era of small government prior to the Civil War through the dramatic transformations of the New Deal and Cold War up to the current challenges of modernizing the welfare state-and shows how each of these stages reflected a dominant vision of the size and role of the federal government, incorporating particular spending, tax, and borrowing philosophies and policies.

Why Budgets Matter offers new insights into the enduring debate over "limited government" versus "big government" in the United States and will be a valuable resource for students, scholars, and policymakers seeking a better understanding of the background to the fiscal problems we face today.


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