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A People's Guide to the Federal Budget Paperback – June 4, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

At the risk of inundating readers with sheer numbers, pie charts, and assorted graphics, A People's Guide takes a singularly dry topic and admirably makes it accessible to the masses. A solid review of "Where Does the Money Come From?" and "Where Does the Money Go?" lays the groundwork for an analysis of the Federal Debt and Obama's 2013 Budget Request. The specific aim for this text is to help readers understand Obama's 2013 proposed budget, a call to action if you will, with an aim to nonpartisan presentation. The text is carefully laid out in a highly digestible and sequential format. It includes simple, layperson's concepts such as our Social Security wage tax holiday, down to 4.2 percent until the end of 2012, upon which the elucidation of more complex tax topics can be built. A more complex graphic is a bar graph with a 70-year review of "Revenues, Outlays, Deficits and Surpluses" - and current deficits versus outlays aren't looking good! In the "Take Action" chapter, a proactive chart provides a month-by-month layout of "Opportunities to Take Action" leading up to October 1, the new fiscal year. Readers would be well served by having a solid grasp of basic government fiscal machinations prior to reading this guide. With clearly presented concepts, consistently referring back to prior explanatory text, there is a wealth of data packed into every page. Grades 10 and up. -Meredith Toumayan, Topsfield Town Library, MA


"This year the president, the entire House of ­Representatives, and one-third of the Senate are up for re-election.... The officials we elect in November will have the opportunity to reshape our country for years to come. If we're to have any hope of navigating the federal budget process and understanding the complex decisions our elected officials will make in future years, we need this book. A People's Guide to the Federal Budget is our way in."

-from the foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich, best-selling author of Nickel and Dimed

"Many Americans express dissatisfaction or worse over what's happening in Washington today... they can't understand much of what's going on, especially when it comes to where our tax dollars go. This book is a bridge for Americans from dissatisfaction and confusion to knowledge and action.... Congresswoman Barbara Jordan said: 'If you're going to play the game properly you'd better know every rule.' That's what makes A People's Guide essential. We've got to understand what's going on in Washington so that we can work together and change the rules, so that our elections are not auctions.... All Americans who hope to make their voices heard in Washington must understand that we must take on the issue of money in politics, and play to win."
-from the afterword by Josh Silver, CEO of United Republic

"Nothing will change in Washington unless the American people demand it. A People's Guide to the Federal Budget empowers Americans by explaining the inside-Washington game and offering tools to hold lawmakers accountable."

-Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration and best-selling author of Aftershock and The Work of Nations

“Given the fateful budget choices we now face as a country, A People's Guide to the Federal Budget crucially helps all citizens understand the process by which those choices will be made and how we can all engage to ensure the best possible outcome.”

-Anthony W. Marx, President, New York Public Library

"Young adults are underrepresented at the polls. That would begin to change if high school curricula provided a strong grounding in the federal budget-- so that young people have the tools to base their judgments on evidence. A People's Guide to the Federal Budget is an invaluable resource."

- Dr. Anand Marri, Teachers College, Columbia University

"Kramer (senior research analyst, National Priorities Project) here provides an understandable explanation of federal spending and revenues. The text explains why readers should care about the federal budget and how it affects them…. This book is worthwhile reading for all U.S. citizens."

-Library Journal

“This guide seeks to inform general readers and high school and college students about the federal budget to make them more active citizens. It explains the budget's terminology and language, its history, its decision makers, where the money comes from and how it is allocated, the federal debt, and how to take action.”

-Book News

“This primer on the complicated federal budget process is offered in readily understandable language for all readers…. The book clearly addresses such issues as discretionary spending … and the federal debt. In the foreword, Ehrenreich reflects on the challenges people face in trying to make ends meet.... This is a valuable resource.”



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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Olive Branch Pr (June 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566568870
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566568876
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If anyone had started talking with me about the federal budget before I read this book, I probably would have rolled my eyes and groaned before quickly changing the subject.

Luckily for me and anyone else who has had a similar reaction, A People's Guide to the Federal Budget is a breath of fresh air in today's cloudy political climate. No matter which side of the political fence you are on, reading this book will be illuminating. No partisan rhetoric, no arguing about who's right or wrong - just the hard facts.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand what political candidates are ACTUALLY saying when they talk about taxes, spending cuts, and deficits during the election season.

Despite the huge amount of budget information presented in the book, I could make sense of all the revenue and spending charts. The other graphics and political cartoons were helpful in making the content seem less daunting - and even funny!

I closed the book feeling like I had the information I need to make my own decisions about what politicians are saying - and why I should care. If YOU care about our democracy and what the federal government does with your money, you should read this book, too.
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The full title of this book is "A People's Guide to The Federal Budget." This title would lead one to believe that the book's content would include a straight-forward explanation of our federal budget, plus a clear explanation of how we get significant deficits each year and have continually increased our total federal debt over the past 10 years. But this is exactly what this book does not do.

First off, the book perpetuates the lies of the George W. Bush administration about the deficits in the 2002 through 2008 fiscal year period, when Social Security surpluses were "borrowed" to pay down the deficit, and, most inexcusably, when the costs of the two wars were NOT included in the reported annual deficits.

What a farce. Why does this lie need to continue? And why does the Office of Budget and Management and the White House not correct these figures, historically? That is part of the problem. In the book, for example, Figure 7.1 is a graph that shows the purported annual deficits in the years 1940 through 2010. It says the source of the data is the IRS. But for the fiscal years of 2002 through 2008 the graph lies. It shows the "reported" deficits from the Bush administration, not the true ones.

In fact, the annual deficits during the fiscal years 2002 through 2008 averaged more than $600 billion per year, not as little as $160 billion per year, as is shown on the graph. And - as an item almost never reported -- the 2007/2008 fiscal year under the George W. Bush administration was the first fiscal year in our country's history with more than a $1 trillion deficit in just one year. That is how the Bush administration gave us an increase in nearly $5 trillion in just eight years. That is what this book should have told us!
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Format: Paperback
I wanted to review this book from a very personal vantage point: I've been a public librarian for nearly two decades.

"A People's Guide to the Federal Budget" is a very useful new resource from National Priorities Project that has relevance and appeal to a wide audience. This book will save hours of research for anyone looking to understand how the federal government raises and spends money, and how our legislators make those decisions. With a glossary of terms, a summary of key points at the end of each chapter, clear diagrams and charts, and a comprehensive bibliography, this book is a cleanly-presented and well-researched reference about the federal budget.

To my knowledge, there is no other book like "A People's Guide to the Federal Budget" that has the goal of "helping folks like you across the country...understand the steps of the federal budget process and identify the impact of federal spending and tax policies on your own family and community." The National Priorities Project team clearly had the average American in mind when they wrote this book, shown by the lack of jargon and the inclusion of graphics and cartoons to illustrate complex concepts.

I was especially interested in the Appendix for Educators, which provides sample discussion questions and activities for high school classrooms. Some of the materials are great for adults, too - I plan to use them as a starting point for book group discussions at my library.

The one downside of the book is that it grounds part of its analysis in President Obama's 2013 Budget proposal. While this is great for readers between now and the election, it makes that portion of the book quickly outdated.
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By CB on August 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is the type of book that puts college text books to shame. Studying the federal budget, the tax system, tax rates, interest rates, appropriation of taxes, and budget legislation, could take three-four months, require testing, memorization, etc. Or, from now on, the reader can buy this book, and have most of the mentioned materials mastered; at the very least, if not mastered, they'll retain a perfect source book for referencing.

The author takes a very school-house rock tone. There is no pomp or flair, and the book tries to be as bipartisan as possible. I say tries because even being bipartisan is be pro partisan to the dual party dominance we have, over alternative parties, but that's another rant, for another time.

The book opens with a discussion of why the reader should care about the federal budget. And it's due to this chapter alone that I negate one star, from an otherwise consummate book. The school-house rock presentation of the people being sovereign, in charge of the state, and overall living in a flourishing democracy that momentarily has gotten away from us, can return with a few letters, and well considered ballot votes, is ridiculous. Again, this is a rant best saved for another time, but for a detailed discussion of how this presentation of American Democracy is lunacy, check out Golden Rule by Thomas Ferguson.

Then the book goes on to discuss a history of the budget process, how it's initially drawn up, where the money comes from, etc. Basically any question you could possibly have about the federal budget is addressed. Moreover, everything presented is then shown in graphs, charts, and statistical models, of present day budget expenditure and tax revenue, along with comparison graphs of past budgets.
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