A Decade of Deficits: Congressional Thought and Fiscal Action

A Decade of Deficits: Congressional Thought and Fiscal Action

A Decade of Deficits: Congressional Thought and Fiscal Action

A Decade of Deficits: Congressional Thought and Fiscal Action

Synopsis

Since 1980, the national agenda and the attention of Congress have been focused on federal budget deficits. This is the first book, however, to examine how lawmakers think about fiscal problems and to emphasize individual legislators economic beliefs. Based on interviews with 110 members of Congress, the book includes an assessment of Congress's capacity to make sound fiscal policy in the future."

Excerpt

Students of Congress have been known to remark that the public hates Congress but loves their own particular legislators. I find that generalization easy to understand after years of questioning legislators in interviews and reading their public statements. The contradiction was abundantly apparent in the 1980s as fiscal problems created a new policy agenda for Congress. Large and persistent deficits dominated congressional attention. Most lawmakers with whom I met voiced serious concern about the federal deficit and could outline cogently their preferred solution to the problem. When constituents encountered such views in town meetings and personal visits, no doubt they often concluded that their representative or senator had thought long and hard about the problem and advocated a defensible way to reduce it. The problem of chronic fiscal imbalance lies less with individual members of Congress than among them collectively. How to get a majority to agree to even one of the myraid of possible solutions? That was the signal problem of fiscal politics in the 1980s.

Researching and writing this book produced an admiration for many of the legislators I encountered and a deep frustration with the fiscal policy product of their institution since 1980. Given the demands upon their time and attention, lawmakers' level of fiscal understanding, though seldom academically sophisticated, proved to be reasonably sound. Their insights about congressional politics were more acute, based on years of strongly motivated observation. Therein lies a great share of the deficit problem. Any solution first must appeal to lawmakers' political sensibilities that are rooted in the imperative of guarding programs of importance to their constituents or to themselves ideologically. The politics of programs dominates congressional life and became the central topic of floor debate over fiscal policy in the 1980s. Legislators spoke most readily about programs during my interviews. In the absence of realistic fiscal leadership by Presidents Reagan and Bush (until . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.