America's Fiscal Constitution: Its Triumph and Collapse
By Bill White
America's Fiscal Constitution tells the remarkable story of fiscal heroes who imposed clear limits on the use of federal debt, limits that for two centuries were part of an unwritten constitution. Those national leaders borrowed only for extraordinary purposes and relied on well-defined budget practices to balance federal spending and revenues.
That traditional fiscal constitution collapsed in 2001. Afterward--for the first time in history--federal elected officials cut taxes during war, funded permanent new programs entirely with debt, grew dependent on foreign creditors, and claimed that the economy could not thrive without routine federal borrowing.
For most of the nation's history, conservatives fought to restrain the growth of government by insisting that new programs be paid for with taxation, while progressives sought to preserve opportunities for people on the way up by balancing budgets. Virtually all mainstream politicians recognized that excessive debt could jeopardize private investment and national independence.
With original scholarship and the benefit of experience in finance and public service, Bill White dispels common budget myths and distills practical lessons from the nation's five previous spikes in debt. America's Fiscal Constitution offers an objective and hopeful guide for people trying to make sense of the nation's current, most severe, debt crisis and its impact on their lives and our future.
"Our nation cannot be strong militarily, diplomatically or politically unless it is strong economically, and we cannot remain strong economically unless we deal with our massive debt burden...A must read for those who believe that we should get our economic house in order."-James A. Baker III, former Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of State "In order to understand our fiscal plight, it's crucial to appreciate how carefully America has dealt with debt in the past. Bill White makes that tale fascinating."-Walter Isaacson, best-selling author and former CEO of CNN and managing editor of "Time" magazine ..".Lucid and pioneering...a compelling and illuminating formula for both economic growth and fiscal restraint."-James MacGregor Burns, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Professor Emeritus at Williams College "There are few Americans I trust more than Bill White. With history as his guide, White trailblazes through the Washington, D.C. bureaucratic jungle, revealing Big Truths that are bolstered with Hard Facts."-Douglas Brinkley, Professor at Rice University and CBS News Historian "A thought-provoking and well-told history of our nation's traditional financial principles. Every citizen can benefita
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