Published by Oxford University Press, August 18, 2014
We Are Better Than This fundamentally reframes budget debates in the United States. Author Edward D. Kleinbard explains how the public's preoccupation with tax policy alone has obscured any understanding of government's ability to complement the private sector through investment and insurance programs that enhance the general welfare and prosperity of our society at large.
He argues that when we choose how government should spend and tax, we open a window into our "fiscal soul," because those choices are the means by which we express the values we cherish and the regard in which we hold our fellow citizens. Though these values are being diminished by short-sighted decisions to starve government, strategic government spending can directly make citizens happier, healthier, and even wealthier.
Expertly combining the latest economic research with his insider knowledge of the budget process into a simple yet compelling narrative, he unmasks the tax mythologies and false arguments that too often dominate contemporary discourse about budget policies. Large quantities of comparative data are succinctly distilled to situate the United States among its peer countries, so that readers can judge for themselves whether contemporary budget choices really reflect our aspirational fiscal soul.
Kleinbard's presentation takes a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing on economics, finance, law, political science and moral philosophy. He uniquely weaves economic research and moral philosophy together by emphasizing our welfare, not just our national income, and by contrasting the actual beliefs of Adam Smith, a great moral philosopher, with the cartoon version of the man presented by proponents of the most extreme forms of private market triumphalism.
We Are Better Than This is firmly grounded in a sound understanding of politics, Congressional process and fiscal policy, but transcends 'wonkery' to focus on the ends we are trying to achieve as a society. While so many in Washington propound ideological agendas, Edward Kleinbard calls on our better angels to consider the kind of world we want for our communities, for our nation, and for our future generations. He then leads the reader through consideration of the best possible economic policies to get us there, regardless of ideology. Kleinbard recognizes that government and private sector have complementary strengths and weaknesses that can be managed to achieve the best American system.
– Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon, Chairman, Senate Finance Committee
The debate about the role of government is as old as the Republic itself. This is a debate we as a country should be having, and Kleinbard's book is a vigorous discussion of the issues involved. Kleinbard, a respected tax policy scholar and practitioner, is well-equipped for the task, and adds an eloquent voice to the discourse on these important issues.
– Robert E. Rubin, Co-Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations, and Former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury
Ed Kleinbard has been a superstar tax practitioner, policy advisor and now, scholar. This important book on America's fiscal future shares the lessons of his varied experience. Anyone who cares about the future of federal government spending and taxing will have to carefully consider Kleinbard's arguments. This is an important book because it rises above policy details to grapple with fundamental issues.
– Larry Summers, University Professor and President Emeritus, Harvard University and former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury
We are certainly better than this, but few people are better than Ed Kleinbard in explaining complicated, important topics in insightful and dare I say even entertaining ways. Ed has excelled in the corporate world, in government, and in academia -- and this book gives us all the benefit of his trenchant mind. If you believe in a brighter future for our country, read this book.
– Peter Orszag, Chairman, Public Sector and Financial Strategy and Solutions Groups, Citigroup, and Former Director, U.S. Office of Management and Budget and
Invoking Adam Smith's broader vision of a just society, Edward Kleinbard argues passionately for a reformed US fiscal system in which government, financed adequately and in a fairer, more efficient manner, does more of what markets cannot to improve individual welfare. Mustering a vast array of data and economic analysis to support his case, Kleinbard provides an insider's informed perspective to counter the artificial constraints of 'market triumphalism' and point the way forward.
– Alan J. Auerbach, Director, Robert D. Burch Center for Tax Policy and Public Finance, University of California, Berkeley
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