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James Simmons

What Government Can Do: Dealing With Poverty and Inequality

by Benjamin I. Page and James R. Simmons

What Government Can Do by SimmonsCan 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 increases, 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.

Comments on the Back Cover

"The era of big government may be over, but the need for effective government is growing. Page and Simmons provide a thoughtful and balanced guide for what government can in fact do to deal with poverty and inequality. A hard-headed book for people with soft hearts." Robert B. Reich, Brandeis University "What ís not on the table today in American politics is an honest discussion of poverty and inequality. This book is just what we need." Senator Paul Wellstone, D-MN

"What Government Can Do demonstrates that government has already done much and can do more to reduce poverty and inequality. The analysis is sophisticated, the argument is lucid, and the prose is pungent. This splendid work is must reading for students of social policy." Irwin Garfinkel, Columbia University

"A primer on what government can do based on what it actually does and how well it does it. What a novel thought! The book is brilliant and timely, and Page and Simmons are thorough, balanced, and professionally fair-minded throughout. The originality of What Government Can Do lies in its orientation, which attempts to recapture the lost progressive optimism of the period from Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson. I can think of no comparable book." James K. Galbraith, University of Texas

About the Authors

Benjamin I. Page is Gordon Scott Fulcher Professor of Decision Making in the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University. He is author or coauthor of seven books, including Who Gets What from Government, The Rational Public, and Who Deliberates?, the latter two published by the University of Chicago Press. 

James R. Simmons is professor in and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. He also directs the Public Administration Program there and has written extensively on public policy issues.

American Politics and Political Economy The University of Chicago Press 0-226-64481-2

Jacket illustration credit: Photograph of World War II poster illustration from Corbis Images. Printed in the U.S.A.

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