What Government Can Do: Dealing with Poverty and Inequality / Edition 2

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Can governments do anything right? Can they do anything at all about the problems of poverty and inequality? Despite the recent boom in the U.S. economy, many millions of Americans have been left behind. Poverty rates remain higher than in most other industrialized countries. Income inequality has increased sharply. Yet we are sometimes told that government cannot or should not do anything about it: either these problems are hopeless, or government action is inevitably wasteful and inefficient, or globalization has made governments impotent.

What Government Can Do argues, on the contrary, that federal, state, and local governments can and should do a great deal. The authors examine a broad range of government programs that affect Americans' food, housing, health care, education, jobs and wages, incomes, and taxes, finding that government policies already do, in fact, help alleviate poverty and economic inequality. Often these policies work far more effectively and efficiently than people realize, and in ways that enhance freedom rather than infringe on it. At the same time, Page and Simmons show how even more could be—and should be—accomplished. The authors advocate many sweeping policy changes while noting certain political obstacles (such as the power of money and organized interests in American politics) that may stand in the way. Yet even those who disagree with their recommendations will come away with a deepened understanding of how social and economic policies actually work. Exploring ideas that are often ignored in Beltway political discourse, What Government Can Do challenges all Americans to raise the level of public debate and improve our public policies.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Since the mid-1970s, many Americans have contended that government cannot solve the social and economic problems we face. Page (political science, Northwestern Univ.; Who Deliberates?) and Simmons (political science, Univ. of Wisconsin, Oshkosh) are more optimistic. In this well-written book, they argue that many government programs, here and abroad, have reduced poverty and inequality. They discuss the causes and consequences of poverty and inequality in America and explore theories on what government should and should not do to correct them. They further argue that social security, Medicare, and other social-insurance programs are successful and that the potential crises facing them can be corrected if the political will is present. They also state that progressive taxes can reduce poverty without reducing incentives to work or invest. Finally, they argue that government should develop better health, education, and training programs; initiate policies to create and maintain good jobs at high wages; and continue developing effective social-insurance programs. This timely, thoughtful book presents a strong case for greater government action and is recommended for all academic and public libraries.--Stephen L. Hupp, Urbana Univ., OH Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226644813
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Series: American Politics and Political Economy Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 409
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Benjamin I. Page is the Gordon Scott Fulcher Professor of Decision Making in the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University.

James R. Simmons is a professor in and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction
The Inequality Express
Inept or Impotent Government?
What Can Be Done
Plan of the Book
2. Poverty and Inequality in the United States
Economic Growth, Markets, and Americans' Incomes
Poverty in the United States
Income Inequality in America
3. What Should Government Do?
Theories of Government Functions
Approaches to Poverty and Inequality
Political and Economic Obstacles
Overcoming the Obstacles
4. Social Insurance
Old Age and Survivors Insurance (Social Security)
Disability Insurance
Unemployment Insurance
Medical Insurance
The Politics of Social Insurance
Improving Social Insurance
5. Fair Taxes
The Idea of Progressivity
Federal Taxes
State and Local Taxes
Taxes and Inequality
Tax Politics
6. Investing in Education
Who Should Provide Education?
Children and Equal Opportunity
Elementary and Secondary Schools
Training for Work
Higher Education
The Politics of Education
Improving Education
7. Jobs and Good Wages
Managing the Economy
Jobs and Spending on Public Goods
Job Training and Placement
Creating Jobs
Raising Wages
International Economic Policy
Job Politics
Improving Employment and Wages
8. "Safety Nets" and Basic Needs
Circus Imagery versus Economic Rights
Medical Care
Income Maintenance
Politics: The War against the Poor
The Right to Basic Necessities
9. Conclusion
Programs That Work
What Remains to Be Done
Overcoming Political and Economic Obstacles
Government for the People

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