A Decade of Deficits

Congressional Thought and Fiscal Action

By Steven E. Schier

Subjects: Congressional Studies
Paperback : 9780791409565, 195 pages, July 1992
Hardcover : 9780791409558, 195 pages, July 1992

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Table of contents


1. The Argument in Brief

2. The Political Economy of Legislators

3. Stabilization Fashions of 1979-1981

4. Sources of Stalemate 1982-1984

5. Gramm-Rudman-Hollings and After

6. Conclusion

7. Appendixes

8. Notes

9. Selected Bibliography



Since 1980, the national agenda and the attention of Congress have been focused on federal budget deficits. This is the first book, however, to examine how lawmakers think about fiscal problems and to emphasize individual legislators' economic beliefs. Based on interviews with 110 members of Congress, the book includes an assessment of Congress's capacity to make sound fiscal policy in the future.

Steven E. Schier is Associate Professor of Political Science at Carleton College and Director of the Carleton in Washington program. He is the author of The Rules of the Game and co-editor of Political Economy in Western Democracies.


"This book gets inside Congress as few have before. It illuminates how members think about the federal budget and how those thoughts translated into action during the 1980s. It's must reading for those who want to understand why deficits are a fact of political life." — William Gray, Former Majority Whip, U.S. House of Representatives

"An impressive piece of research that gets inside the heads of members of Congress and uses their policy thinking as an important guide to budgeting decisions in the 1980s and beyond." — Richard Fenno, University of Rochester

"Schier tells economists, policy analysts, and budget specialists something they do not know—how members of Congress think about making budgetary policy. This is must reading for students of Congress, too, filled with new information on every page." — Barbara Hinckley, New York University

"All congressional scholars, not just those working in the area of fiscal policy, will find this book useful, as will graduate and advanced undergraduate students in Congress courses. The book provides a framework of analysis that can help students of Congress to understand congressional representation and decision making in a wide range of policy areas." — David Vogler, Wheaton College

"To understand the limits of what Congress can do in budgeting, read this book. From Kemp-Roth to Gramm-Rudman and the Bush presidency, Schier develops a convincing explanation for the outcomes of fiscal policy in Congress during the 1980s." — Stephen Frantzich, U.S. Naval Academy