13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A Good Primer on the History of U.S. Fiscal Policy,
This review is from: Hamilton's Blessing: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Our National Debt (Paperback)
Just two years ago, John Steele Gordon's book on the history of the U.S. federal debt would have seemed dated, even though it was published in 1997. After more than twenty consecutive years of operating in the red, the U.S. federal government had not only erased its annual deficits and began paying down the debt, but surpluses were projected over the next ten years.
This is no longer the case. A tax cut, the war on terrorism, and a slowdown in the economy have combined to push the U.S. government's outlays above its revenues. They have also made this book -- "Hamilton's Blessing" -- relevant again.
Gordon's book is two things: 1) a basic history describing the twists and turns of U.S. fiscal policy over the last two hundred-plus years and 2) a political tract condemning the latest turn U.S. fiscal policy has taken since the Great Society.
By combining the two, Gordon seeks to show that the most recent practice of U.S. fiscal policy -- that of habitually running deficits in peacetime -- is not only unprecedented in U.S. history, but also, more importantly, unsupported by any sound theory of economics.
"Hamilton's Blessing" is well-written and interesting. The book is only slightly marred by a lack of detail in some areas. How exactly does a large public debt hurt your average citizen and by how much? We never find out.
Gordon also should have kept his own political bent out of the book. Among other things, he spends three pages in a less than 200-page book detailing Jack Kemp's personal and political history, including his football career. All very interesting, but not really relevant to the history of the U.S. debt.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 26, 2013 6:44:48 AM PDT
Curtis M. Howland says:
You do realize that the debt has increased every year, that there was no debt reduction under Clinton?
The gridlock of Clinton vs. the Republican Congress did allow inflation to cause tax receipts to gain upon a relatively static Federal budget, but it never reached parity.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2013 12:40:17 PM PDT
Jeffery Steele says:
The *public* debt dropped during each of the last four years of Clinton's second term. The *gross* debt, which includes both public debt and off-budget items like Social Security, did not significantly change. But overall more debt was paid down than newly issued, and because of this trend (as well as good economic growth), interests rates eventually went down.
<i>"The gridlock of Clinton vs. the Republican Congress did allow inflation to cause tax receipts to gain upon a relatively static Federal budget..."</i>
It wasn't gridlock. It was the end of the Cold War, and the subsequent reduction of military spending. Defense spending represented 7 percent of the US GDP in 1986, and only 3.6 percent in 1999 - a significant reduction.
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