Dead Men Ruling: How to Restore Fiscal Freedom and Rescue Our Future

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Overview

The news coming out of Washington, D.C., and reverberating around the nation increasingly sounds like a broken record: low or zero growth in employment, inadequate funds to pay future Social Security and Medicare obligations, declining rates of investment, cuts in funding for education and children's programs, arbitrary sequesters or cutbacks in good and bad programs alike, underfunded pensions, bankrupt cities, threats not to pay our nation's growing debts, rancorous partisanship, and political parties with no ...

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Dead Men Ruling: How to Restore Fiscal Freedom and Rescue Our Future

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Overview

The news coming out of Washington, D.C., and reverberating around the nation increasingly sounds like a broken record: low or zero growth in employment, inadequate funds to pay future Social Security and Medicare obligations, declining rates of investment, cuts in funding for education and children's programs, arbitrary sequesters or cutbacks in good and bad programs alike, underfunded pensions, bankrupt cities, threats not to pay our nation's growing debts, rancorous partisanship, and political parties with no real vision for twenty-first-century government.

In Dead Men Ruling, C. Eugene Steuerle argues that these seemingly separable economic and political problems are actually symptoms of a common disease, one unique to our time. Unless that disease and the history of how it spread over time is understood, Steuerle says, it is easy for politicians and voters alike to fall prey to believing in simple but ineffective nostrums, hoping that a cure lies merely in switching political parties or reducing the deficit or protecting and expanding our favorite program.

Despite the despairing claims of many, Steuerle points out that we no more live in an age of austerity than did Americans at the turn into the twentieth century with the demise of the frontier. Conditions are ripe to advance opportunity in ways never before possible, including doing for children and the young in this century what the twentieth did for senior citizens, yet without abandoning those earlier gains. Recognizing this extraordinary but checked potential is also the secret to breaking the political logjam that —as Steuerle points out —was created largely by now dead (or retired) men.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Great book. I could not put it down. Gene Steuerle's Dead Men Ruling... documents how and why American governments at all levels... are crowding out discretionary spending that would allow the country to respond flexibly to challenges and opportunities and make economically and socially productive investments. This is a vital concern to those of us who study the gains possible by investing early and well in children." —James J. Heckman, Nobel Prize Laureate and professor of economics, University of Chicago

"This book moves beyond the urgent to the truly important as it seeks to provide a broad theory of our problems and to chart a forward course. Anyone concerned with our economic future should carefully consider Steuerle's arguments." —Lawrence H. Summers, former secretary of the treasury and former director, White House National Economic Council

"Everyone who cares about the future of America's children should read Steuerle's book. His vision and values expose the arid debates about deficit reduction, and point to the urgency of investing in children, enhancing opportunities, and increasing social mobility. He makes a compelling case that a nation that does not invest in its children is a nation in decline." —Ruby Takanishi, former president of the Foundation for Child Development and senior research fellow, Early Education Initiative, New America Foundation

" Dead Men Ruling is a must-read for anyone who believes in bringing profound change to the federal budget and restoring our ability to invest in growth and opportunity for future generations." —Jonathan Cowan, president of Third Way

"I've witnessed first-hand Gene's rare talent at pulling together Democrats and Republicans when others feel there is no way forward, whether for the most significant tax reform in modern history or helping a budget commission step boldly into the future. In this book he reframes our tired debates and proposes how to get... to a 21st century agenda focused on children, investment, and posterity." —Senator Kent Conrad (ret., ND), former chair, Senate Budget Committee

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870785382
  • Publisher: The Century Foundation
  • Publication date: 3/31/2014
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

C. Eugene Steuerle is Richard B. Fisher chair and Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute, and a columnist under the title The Government We Deserve. Among past positions, he has served as deputy assistant secretary of the treasury for tax analysis (1987—89), president of the National Tax Association (2001—02), chair of the 1999 Technical Panel advising Social Security on its methods and assumptions, economic coordinator and original organizer of the 1984 Treasury study that led to the Tax Reform Act of 1986, president of the National Economists Club Educational Foundation, vice-president of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, federal executive fellow at the Brookings Institution, a columnist for the Financial Times, co-founder of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, the Urban Institute Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, and Act for Alexandria, a community foundation.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 15, 2014

    Gene Steuerle is the most astute observer of economic policy wor

    Gene Steuerle is the most astute observer of economic policy working in Washington, as demonstrated by the many books and articles that he has written over the years and the impact that his writing has had. Now, he is able to bring his unparalleled experience to bear in order to enlighten our current dilemmas.


    In this provocative book, Steuerle argues that the United States – and the federal government – is far from lacking in resources. Rather, the basic problem is that the spending and taxing programs that were put in place many years ago have committed – more accurately, have overcommitted – the government to spending far more than the government can expect to generate in revenues. In effect, our current policies are being imposed upon us by past policies, and so we do not have the discretion needed to respond wisely to our current challenges; that is, we are still being “ruled” by the “dead men” who enacted these past policies. The solution is obvious if hard: restore discretion to current economic policy making.

    This book is required reading for anyone wanting to understand current policy debates and, especially, for anyone wanting to improve policy making in Washington.

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  • Posted July 10, 2014

    This is a must read for anyone interested in the fiscal future o

    This is a must read for anyone interested in the fiscal future of  our country: beautifully written and illuminated with insightful graphics. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2014

    This is a book which everyone should read. In a publishing world

    This is a book which everyone should read. In a publishing world full of books in which liberals and conservatives sling mud at each other and blame each other for all the current fiscal problems, Steuerle stands above the rest by refusing to take sides. Instead, he clearly lays out how we ended up in the current fiscal crisis and more importantly, what can be done about it

    "In 2009, every dollar of U.S. revenue was committed before the new Congress walked through capital doors." This is a powerful line. How can we expect a new Congress to improve on the old one if every new year, the budget has already overspent before they have time to do anything? However, despite the severe problems, Steuerle adopts an optimistic attitude. He proposes a more flexible budget that focuses on promoting opportunity and investing in the youngest Americans.

    History buffs will love the chapter describing past fiscal turnings, the evolution of American attitudes towards debt, and how we ended up where we are today. Policy buffs will love the chapter on why it is so hard to enact positive change in the current political environment. Everyone should read the chapter on how to tame our budgetary problems and restore fiscal freedom.

    After reading Steuerle's book, it is impossible not to feel a surge of optimism. At least the light at the end of the tunnel exists; we only have to find it.

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