T he generational wars are about to begin: competing for entitlements, wrestling over taxes, dancing around the deficit. Today’s children and grandchildren are tomorrow’s taxpayers and social fabric. The authors of Payment Due contend that our current policies of federal overspending are setting those children up for economic disaster. Former Representative Tim Penny (D-MN) knows how volatile the politics of the situation are; he retired because he couldn’t locate in Congress at large the institutional will (or stomach) to deal with the issues squarely. Political scientist Steven Schier understands the way in which the politics work against economics to solve the problem. Together, they take us inside the Capitol corridors to show us the lobbying, arm-twisting, and pork barrel politicking that goes on to derail policies designed to reduce the federal deficit. We get to play the “Washington Monument game” along with the worst of the offenders and to see firsthand how three schools of deficit thought—the wolves, pussycats, and termites—approach the prospect of cutting back federal outlays and weaning the great middle class from its own welfare dependency. A hallmark of the book is its three-tiered set of long-term entitlement reform proposals, complete with careful documentation of the contribution each recommended item makes toward reducing the federal deficit (or at least slowing its increase). Along with suggested short-term plans, these proposals give students the opportunity to try to solve both short- and long-term problems. Students will appreciate the timeliness and relevance of the book’s argument to their generation’s future plight, and all readers will benefit from the clear presentation of complex economic concepts and arguments essential to understanding the federal deficit debate—and to confronting the political, social, and moral payments now coming due.
Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments -- A Clear and Present Dilemma -- Origins of the Dilemma -- Politics and Institutions: The Dilemma’s Context -- False Starts: Two Failures to Reform -- Principles, Solutions, and Leadership -- Discussion Questions -- Options for 2030: Long-Term Entitlement Reforms -- Deficit Reduction: Specific Options -- Other Current Options: Deficit-Reduction Possibilities -- To Learn More