Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

The Story Behind Funding, Debt

As the dust settles on the debt ceiling fight, a lot of people inside the Beltway — and outside it — are wondering what just happened.

There are no simple answers, but several books have given some hints as to what might be causing the increasingly polarized fight over the size and funding of the federal government. 

We asked four experts for their recommendations: Indiana University political science professor Jeffrey C. Isaac, Duke University political science professor Michael C. Munger, Georgetown University American government professor Michael A. Bailey and George Washington University associate political science professor Eric Lawrence.

Here are their suggestions:


“Winner-Take-All Politics”
by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

To best understand our current political system, Isaac suggests this book, which he says is a worthy “contribution to broad public discussion of distributive politics.” 

Political scientists Hacker and Pierson explain how growing corporate influences and abuse of the legislative system have fundamentally changed the political system during the past 30 years. 

Some consequences of this, according to the authors, are a growing gap between economic classes and a radicalization of national politics.

“Its topic could not be more relevant to a U.S. polity wracked by bitter partisan disagreements about taxes, social spending, financial regulation, social insecurity and inequality,” Isaac said.


“Party Position Change in American Politics: Coalition Management”

by David Karol

Political parties obviously play a significant role in our politics, so understanding how they operate and how they have evolved should shed some light on what is happening in politics. One of the best explanations of how parties operate, according to Munger, is Karol’s book.

“This book helps us understand a lot of what we see, and don’t see, in political rhetoric and ads,” Munger said.

In it, the political scientist looks at the interest groups and professional politicians that make up a political party and explains how and why party beliefs can change.


“Taxing Ourselves: A Citizen’s Guide to the Debate Over Taxes” 

by Joel Slemrod and Jon Bakija

For many people, politics can be boiled down to the issue of taxes. Are they too high or too low? How can we reform our tax system? Should we? And while every pundit and politician has an opinion on taxes, the facts behind them are often few and far between. 

To remedy this, Bailey suggests reading “Taxing Ourselves.” 

“This book gives the facts about taxes straight up and such facts are dearly needed in the debate,” he said.

Written by two respected economics professors, “Taxing Ourselves” is a comprehensive look at the tax debate. It explains the effect that taxes have on the economy, looks at how the tax system operates and evaluates different proposals for reforming it.


“The Deficit and the Public Interest”

by Joseph White and Aaron Wildavsky

Another topic that frequently comes up in debates about politics is the deficit. But what is it and why was it so central? 

To answer these questions and more, Lawrence suggests reading this book by two political scientists.

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