In the United States many important programs are paid from trust funds. At a time when major social insurance funds are facing insolvency, this book provided the first comprehensive study of this significant yet little-studied feature of the American welfare state. Equally importantly, the author investigates an enduring issue in democratic politics: can current officeholders bind their successors? By law, trust funds, which get most of their money from earmarked taxes, are restricted for specific uses. Patashnik asks why these structures were created, and how they have affected political dynamics. He argues that officeholders have used trust funds primarily to reduce political uncertainty, and bind distant futures. Based on detailed case studies of trust funds in a number of policy sectors, he shows how political commitment is a developmental process, whereby precommitments shape the content of future political conflicts. This book will be of interest to students of public policy, political economy and American political development.
• Was the first comprehensive study of a central feature of the American welfare state • Written accessibly, will be of interest to policy makers as well as students of political economy, public policy and American politics
1. Introduction: trust funds and the politics of commitment; 2. Political transaction costs, feedback effects, and policy credibility; 3. Trust fund taxes vs general fund taxes; 4. Social security; 5. Medicare; 6. Highways; 7. Airports; 8. Superfund; 9. Barriers to trust fund adoption: the failed cases of energy security and lead abatement; 10. Conclusions: The structure and normative challenge of promise-keeping.
'This is a terrific book. For Patashnik, the world of trust funds is a window into the complex and fascinating politics of trust and commitment. He shows how policy-makers wrestle with the challenging task of balancing the need to keep promises and the need to keep their options open. Imaginative, theoretically-informed and thoroughly-researched, Putting Trust in the US Budget is enormously instructive for students of public policy and American politics.' Paul Pierson, Harvard University
'This is a significant contribution to the literature on American policy-making and public budgeting. Patashnik artfully weaves together political science, public finance, and knowledge of government programs in telling us what to expect from the government's trust funds. The use of theory is deft and wide-ranging yet unpretentious. The case studies of Social Security, Medicare and other trust funds are sophisticated and illuminating. I learned a great deal from this book.' Martha Derthick, University of Virginia
'One can only admire the author's ability to explain so much, so lucidly.' Journal of Economic Literature