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. The authors examine a broad range of government programs that affect Americans' food, housing, health care, education, jobs and wages, incomes, and taxes, finding that 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 noting certain 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. 2 line drawings