The Politics of Bad Ideas: The Great Tax Cut Delusion and the Decline of Good Government in America

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Bryan Jones

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For the past 25 years, Americans have been lead to believe that government can cut taxes without adjusting future spending and not harm government finance. Simply put, our government's economic policies have not worked as advertised.

That is the conclusion by two prominent scholars in the field-Bryan D. Jones and Walter Williams-and they support it with sharp and insightful analysis of the bad economic ideas that have shaped our economy. The authors look at the amazing resilience of these ideas and why they continue to survive, despite overwhelming evidence that they have caused damage to our long-term fiscal stability and the American economy.

Ending on a positive note, Politics of Bad Ideas concludes with suggestions on how we can get out from under the dead weight of these destructive strategies.

Jones and Williams provide a valuable-and much needed-critique of faith-based analysis. This is essential reading for students of public policy.
-George C. Edwards III, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Jordan Chair in Presidential Studies, Texas A&M University

A lucid, convincing, and devastating critique of supply-side economics and a starve-the-beast route to shrinking the size of government. Jones and Williams document the high cost of the triumph of ideology over neutral competence in national policymaking and suggest ways of restoring honesty and responsibility to public finance in America.
- THOMAS E. MANN, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution, and co-author of The Broken Branch

Here's a good idea: Read The Politics of Bad Ideas. With care and without cant, Jones and Williams?an acclaimed political scientist and an accomplished policy expert?eviscerate the free lunch mantra of radical tax cutters. They show that the great tax cut delusion has eroded not just our government's fiscal capacity, but also the health of our representative democracy.
- JACOB S. HACKER, Professor of Political Science, Yale University, and author of The Great Risk Shift

This lively book is a clear window into the very soul of American politics. It helps explain how analysts convince themselves of the things they want to believe and why citizens so easily believe what they want to hear. It's at once a keen assessment of where we've been and a sharp look at the big, inescapable policy puzzles that lie ahead-and the challenges that America's political institutions face in trying to solve them.
-DONALD F. KETTL, Director, Fels Institute of Government, University of Pennsylvania

The Politics of Bad Ideas is a ringing indictment of bad fiscal policy and an explanation of why and how bad fiscal policy persists. Writing with incisive clarity, Bryan Jones and Walter Williams present a lively description of the decline of evidence-based policy making and a principled defense of the classic concept of neutral competence among career policy makers. The Politics of Bad Ideas is an important contribution to political science, to public administration, and to policy analysis.
- H. GEORGE FREDERICKSON, Stene Professor of Public Administration, University of Kansas

Bryan Jones and Walter Williams have delivered a devastating critique, filled with lots of empirical evidence, of the faith-based style of policy-making that has been in vogue since the days of Ronald Reagan's presidency and which has reached its apotheosis under the presidency of George W. Bush. But even more searing than its exposure of the calamitous policies of the Bush administration is the critique by the authors of our broken system of government.
- BERT A. ROCKMAN, Head and Professor of Political Science, Purdue University

In writing this book, Bryan Jones and Walter Williams have performed a valuable public service: they have laid out in clear terms the nexus of political and economic arguments underpinning debates over the economy and federal budget. No small achievement, since most such arguments are so ideologically driven and academic jargon-riven as to be unheard by any larger public. The authors are clear about their own preferences and they may well not persuade their opponents, but this book certainly deserves a large audience.
- JOHN L. PALMER, University Professor, Maxwell School, Syracuse University


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