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Publisher's Summary

In a sweeping narrative about the people and the politics behind the budget, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter David Wessel looks at the 2011 fiscal year (which ended September 30) to see where all the money was actually spent, and why the budget process has grown wildly out of control. Through the eyes of key people-Jacob Lew, White House director of the Office of Management and Budget; Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office; Blackstone founder and former Commerce Secretary Pete Peterson; and more-Wessel gives listeners an inside look at the making of our unsustainable budget.
©2012 David Wessel (P)2012 Tantor
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Graham on 09-20-12

An Eye Opening Introduction to the National Debt

This is a great introduction to the US debt problem. It reveals where the US debt came from, how big it is and why it is such a difficult problem to solve. In this short book Wessel paints a fairly clear picture of what America is spending its money on. He shows how entitlements such as social security and medicare as well as the military contribute greatly to the debt problem. He shows that the only way to solve the problem is to both significantly reduce spending and increase taxes broadly. Small changes, however, such as raising the eligibility age of social security or increasing taxes only on the rich can not resolve the issue. Without large substantive changes, the debt problem will only continue to get worse.

The book lacks a discussion of what would happen eventually if nothing is done. Instead it focuses on the current stalemate between the republicans and the democrats. He shows how the plans of those on the right, such as Paul Ryan, differ from those on the left, such as President Obama.

All together this is a very good introduction at explaining what the debt problem is. But if you already know some of what it is, maybe you would be more interested in a book that examines the consequences of not fixing it, such as "Endgame: The End of The Debt Supercycle And How It Changes Everything" by John Mauldin

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10 of 11 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Philo on 04-27-17

Mild blue tilt; somewhat dated; but informative

There are good solid glimpses of the tangles we face with this matter, and sadly, there is no clear solution in sight (and the clock is ticking, as the book informs us with some eye-opening numbers, with the aging boomers and so on). Some numbers here will curl your toes, if you haven't yet peered into this potential abyss. Maybe soon it will come and engulf us anyway. This work helps clarify the political logjams in DC. I wish everyone could be forced to absorb at least some version of the contents here, though I would dial it a few degrees rightward, to attract a wide audience. Alas, it is a free country.
The most screen-time goes to Leon Panetta, a top-level operative for Democrats in many jobs and administrations. There is some time with Paul Ryan too.

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