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. Benjamin I. Page and James R. Simmons detail what programs have worked and how they can be improved, while introducing the general reader to the fundamentals of social insurance programs such as Social Security and Medicaid, tax structures, minimum wage laws, educational programs, and the concept of "basic needs." Through their discussions of high-profile campaign plans, proposals, successes, and failures, they have written a readable, optimistic, and clear-headed book on government and poverty. And they find that, contrary to popular belief, 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 acknowledging 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 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.
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.