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How America Manages Its Debt
The underexamined art and science of managing the federal government's huge debt.
Everyone talks about the size of the U.S. national debt, now at $13 trillion and climbing, but few talk about how the U.S. Treasury does the borrowing—even though it is one of the world's largest borrowers. Everyone from bond traders to the home-buying public is affected by the Treasury's decisions about whether to borrow short or long term and what types of bonds to sell to investors.
What is the best way for the Treasury to finance the government's huge debt? Harvard's Robin Greenwood, Sam Hanson, Joshua Rudolph, and Larry Summers argue that the Treasury could save taxpayers money and help the economy by borrowing more short term and less long term. They also argue that the Treasury and the Federal Reserve made a huge mistake in recent years by rowing in opposite directions: while the Fed was buying long-term bonds to push investors into other assets, the Treasury was doing the opposite—selling investors more long-term bonds.
This book includes responses from a variety of public and private sector experts on how the Treasury does its borrowing, some of whom have criticized the way the Treasury has been managing its borrowing.
How Well Are American Students Learning?
The Brown Center Report on American Education provides an accurate, nonpartisan, data-driven account of American elementary and secondary education. Its purpose is four-fold: to determine the direction of achievement in U.S. public schools; to gauge the significance of changes; to uncover the policies and practices influencing the direction of student achievement; and finally, to figure out whether the public is getting the full story on student learning. This year’s report tackles perennial questions of how to interpret trends in test scores, the distribution of achievement, school turnarounds, and charter schools. It examines national test data going back to 1971 from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, compares the 1989 and 2009 test scores of more than 1,000 schools, and compares the test scores of conversion charter schools from 1986 to those from 2008.
How Well Are American Students Learning?
An overarching theme of this year’s report is that events in the field of education are not always as they appear to be—and especially so with test scores. Whether commentators perpetrating myths of international testing, states winning races while evidencing only mediocre progress, or an eighth grade test dominated by content below the eighth grade, the story is rarely as simple as it appears on first blush. This report digs beneath the surface and uncover some of the complexities of these important issues.
The Case for Modest Growth in America's Defense Budget
U.S. defense spending isn’t excessive and, in fact, should continue to grow because it’s both affordable and necessary in today's challenging world. The United States spends a lot of money on defense—$607 billion in the current fiscal year. But Brookings national security scholar Michael O'Hanlon argues that is roughly the right amount given the overall size of the national economy and continuing U.S. responsibilities around the world. If anything, he says spending should increase modestly under the next president, remaining near 3 percent of gross domestic product. Recommendations in this book differ from the president's budget plan in two key ways. First, the author sees a mismatch in the Pentagon’s current plans between ends and means. The country needs to spend enough money to carry out its military missions and commitments. Second, O'Hanlon recommends dropping a plan to cut the size of the Army from the current 475,000 active-duty soldiers to 450,000. The U.S. national defense budget is entirely affordable—relative to the size of the economy, relative to past levels of effort by this country in the national security domain, and relative, especially, to the costs of failing to uphold a stable international order. Even at a modestly higher price, it will be the best $650 billion bargain going, and a worthy investment in this country’s security and its long-term national power.
Energy policy is on everyone's mind these days. The U.S. presidential campaign focused on energy independence and exploration ("Drill, baby, drill!"), climate change, alternative fuels, even nuclear energy. But there is a serious problem endemic to America's energy challenges. Policymakers tend to do just enough to satisfy political demands but not enough to solve the real problems, and they wait too long to act. The resulting policies are overly reactive, enacted once damage is already done, and they are too often incomplete, incoherent, and ineffectual. Given the gravity of current economic, geopolitical, and environmental concerns, this is more unacceptable than ever. This important volume details this problem, making clear the unfortunate results of such short-sighted thinking, and it proposes measures to overcome this counterproductive tendency.
All of the contributors to Acting in Time on Energy Policy are affiliated with Harvard University and rank among America's pre-eminent energy policy analysts. They tackle important questions as they pertain to specific areas of energy policy: Why are these components of energy policy so important? How would "acting in time" i.e. not waiting until politics demands action make a difference? What should our policy actually be? We need to get energy policy right this time Gallagher and her colleagues help lead the way.
Next Generation Reform
In the modern era, political leaders and scholars have declared the rule of law to be essential to democracy, a necessity for economic growth, and a crucial tool in the fight for security at home and stability abroad. The United States has spent billions attempting to catalyze rule-of-law improvements within other countries. Yet despite the importance of the goal to core foreign policy needs, and the hard work of hundreds of practitioners on the ground, the track record of successful rule-of-law promotion has been paltry.
In Advancing the Rule of Law Abroad, Rachel Kleinfeld describes the history and current state of reform efforts and the growing movement of second-generation reformers who view the rule of law not as a collection of institutions and laws that can be built by outsiders, but as a relationship between the state and society that must be shaped by those inside the country for lasting change. Based on research in countries from Indonesia to Albania, Kleinfeld makes a compelling case for new methods of reform that can have greater chances of success.
This book offers a comprehensive overview of this growing area of policy action where diplomacy and aid meet the domestic policies of other states. Its insights into the practical methods and moral complexities of supporting reform within other countries will be useful to practitioners and students alike.
A Personal Account
Internal conflicts, dictatorship, and economic disintegration characterized the first twenty-five years of Uganda's independence from British colonial rule, which culminated in the reign of Idi Amin and a violent civil war. The country has since achieved an astounding turnaround of stability and growth. Advancing the Ugandan Economy is a first-hand look at the remarkable policy changes that took place from 1986 to 2012 and their effect in contrast with the turbulent events after independence.
Ezra Suruma held several key positions in the Ugandan government during the nation's transition period, including minister of finance. His insightful recounting of those times demonstrates that African countries can achieve economic stability and sustain rapid growth when they meet at least two interdependent conditions: establishing a stable and secure political framework and unleashing entrepreneurialism. Suruma also highlights the strategic areas that still require fundamental reform if Uganda is to become a modern state and shares his vision for the future of his country.
Rarely in African history has so much positive political and economic transformation of a country been achieved in such a short time. Suruma's account of the commitment, determination, vision, and dexterity of the Ugandan government holds invaluable lessons in managing the still complex policy challenges facing the African continent.
The Struggle to Shape the Federal Judiciary
For better or worse, federal judges in the United States today are asked to resolve some of the nation's most important and contentious public policy issues. Although some hold onto the notion that federal judges are simply neutral arbiters of complex legal questions, the justices who serve on the Supreme Court and the judges who sit on the lower federal bench are in fact crafters of public law. In recent years, for example, the Supreme Court has bolstered the rights of immigrants, endorsed the constitutionality of school vouchers, struck down Washington D.C.'s blanket ban on handgun ownership, and most famously, determined the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. The judiciary now is an active partner in the making of public policy.
Judicial selection has been contentious at numerous junctures in American history, but seldom has it seemed more acrimonious and dysfunctional than in recent years. Fewer than half of recent appellate court nominees have been confirmed, and at times over the past few years, over ten percent of the federal bench has sat vacant. Many nominations linger in the Senate for months, even years. All the while, the judiciary's caseload grows. Advice and Dissent explores the state of the nation's federal judicial selection system a process beset by deepening partisan polarization, obstructionism, and deterioration of the practice of advice and consent.
Focusing on the selection of judges for the U.S. Courts of Appeals and the U.S. District Courts, the true workhorses of the federal bench, Sarah A. Binder and Forrest Maltzman reconstruct the history and contemporary practice of advice and consent. They identify the political and institutional causes of conflict over judicial selection over the past sixty years, as well as the consequences of such battles over court appointments. Advice and Dissent offers proposals for reforming the institutions of judicial selection, advocating pragmatic reforms that seek to harness the incentives of presidents and senators together. How well lawmakers confront the breakdown in advice and consent will have lasting consequences for the institutional capacity of the U.S. Senate and for the performance of the federal bench.
The Singapore Healthcare Story
This is the story of the Singapore healthcare system: how it works, how it is financed, its history, where it is going, and what lessons it may hold for national health systems around the world. Singapore ranks sixth in the world in healthcare outcomes, yet spends proportionally less on healthcare than any other high-income country. This is the first book to set out a comprehensive system-level description of healthcare in Singapore, with a view to understanding what can be learned from its unique system design and development path.
The lessons from Singapore will be of interest to those currently planning the future of healthcare in emerging economies, as well as those engaged in the urgent debates on healthcare in the wealthier countries faced with serious long-term challenges in healthcare financing. Policymakers, legislators, public health officials responsible for healthcare systems planning, finance and operations, as well as those working on healthcare issues in universities and think tanks should understand how the Singapore system works to achieve affordable excellence.
Culture, Diplomacy, and Counterinsurgency
Fernando Gentilini served nearly two years as the civilian representative of NATO in Afghanistan, running a counterinsurgency campaign in the wartorn nation. Afghan Lessons is the fascinating story of his mission, a firsthand view of Afghanistan through a kaleidoscope. He explores Afghan history, literature, tradition, and culture to understand some of the most basic questions of Western involvement: What is the purpose? What does an international presence mean, and how can it help?
Highlights from Afghan Lessons
"This is a book about different worlds, different realities. The reality of everyday life in an unreal world. People that need to be looked after, jobs that need to be done, a country that needs to be restored, all from within the necessary confines of an armed camp. And this in the middle of another reality, which we do not understand, full of things forgotten under decades of war. The keys to this reality lie in the past, perhaps lost." from the Foreword by Robert Cooper
"To tempt me to explore their country, the Afghans kept repeating that there were three different Afghanistans: 'The first is the one you Westerners imagine; another coincides with the city of Kabul; the third is the country of remote provinces, far away from the cities, and of the three, this is the only real Afghanistan.'"
"'There can be no development without security and no security without development.' ... Everyone said it over and over again, both the civilians and the military, but depending on whether it was said by the former or the latter, the emphasis was placed on the first or second part of the slogan. In all honesty this seemingly obvious concept concealed two contrasting ways of seeing things."