America’s Fiscal Constitution

Its Triumph and Collapse

Bill White

PublicAffairs, April 2014

America’s Fiscal Constitution: Its Triumph and Collapse tells the remarkable story of federal leaders who imposed clear limits on the use of federal debt. For almost two centuries those limits allowed the federal government to borrow for only four purposes. That traditional fiscal constitution collapsed in 2001, when federal elected officials broke the traditional link between federal tax and spending policies. For the first time in history, the federal government cut taxes during war, funded permanent new programs entirely with debt, and became dependent on foreign creditors.

With insights gained from original scholarship and an unusual breadth of experience in finance and government, Bill White distills practical lessons from the nation’s five previous spikes in debt. America’s Fiscal Constitution is an entertaining and objective guide for people trying to make sense of the current and most dangerous debt crisis.

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About the Author

Bill White is currently chairman of Houston Banking and senior advisor for Lazard, a firm advising corporate executives, boards and governments throughout the world. He served as mayor of Houston from 2003 to 2009 and deputy secretary of energy during the Clinton administration. As mayor of Houston, White received the prestigious John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award for his leadership of relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina and Governing magazine’s Governing Official of the Year award in 2007. He has been a successful CEO, has served on the boards of numerous corporations, and has practiced and taught law. White ran for governor in 2010 against Rick Perry, receiving more votes than any Democratic candidate in the history of Texas.