The United States is moving toward a possible catastrophic fiscal collapse. The country may not get there, but the risk is unmistakable and growing. The 'fiscal language' of taxes, spending, and deficits has played a huge and under appreciated role in the decisions that have pushed the nation in this dangerous direction. Part of the problem is that by focusing only on the current year, deficits permit politicians to ignore what is looming down the road. The bigger problem lies in the belief, shared by people on the left and the right alike, that 'tax cuts' and 'spending cuts' lead to smaller government, when in fact the characterization of any new policy as a change in 'taxes' or in 'spending' is purely a matter of labeling. This book proposes a better fiscal language for US budgetary policy, rooted in economic fundamentals such as wealth distribution and resource allocation in lieu of 'taxes' and 'spending'.
• Lively and entertaining exposé of US politicians' foibles and tricks in recent fiscal public policy debates • Includes concrete proposals for improving political discourse on taxes and public programs • Examines why US politics has recently gone off the rails, without just blaming one side
Part I. Labels and Consequences: The Failure of our Fiscal Language: 1. Fiscal language and the fiscal crisis; 2. Taxes, spending, and the size of government; 3. Fun and games with budget deficits; Part II. The Why and How of Long-Term Budgeting: 4. What are we talking about when we talk about budget deficits?; 5. Long-term measures in lieu of the budget deficit; 6. Fiscal gap politics; Part III. Labels and Policies across Budget Categories: 7. Benign fictions? Describing social security and Medicare; 8. Tax expenditures; 9. Welfare, cash grants, and marginal rates; Part IV. Conclusion: 10. Some modest proposals.