Books

The Public Option (with Ganesh Sitaraman)

A solution to inequalities wherever we look—in health care, secure retirement, education—is as close as the public library. Or the post office, community pool, or local elementary school. Public options—reasonably priced government-provided services that coexist with private options—are all around us, ready to increase opportunity, expand freedom, and reawaken civic engagement if we will only let them.

Whenever you go to your local public library, send mail via the post office, or visit Yosemite, you are taking advantage of a longstanding American tradition: the public option. Some of the most useful and beloved institutions in American life are public options—yet they are seldom celebrated as such. These government-supported opportunities coexist peaceably alongside private options, ensuring equal access and expanding opportunity for all.

Ganesh Sitaraman and Anne Alstott challenge decades of received wisdom about the proper role of government and consider the vast improvements that could come from the expansion of public options. Far from illustrating the impossibility of effective government services, as their critics claim, public options hold the potential to transform American civic life, offering a wealth of solutions to seemingly intractable problems, from housing shortages to the escalating cost of health care.

Imagine a low-cost, high-quality public option for child care. Or an extension of the excellent Thrift Savings Plan for federal employees to all Americans. Or every person having access to an account at the Federal Reserve Bank, with no fees and no minimums. From broadband internet to higher education, The Public Option reveals smart new ways to meet pressing public needs while spurring healthy competition. More effective than vouchers or tax credits, public options could offer us all fairer choices and greater security.

9781640206809LFederal Income Taxation:  Principles and Policies (with Michael Graetz and Deborah Schenk, 8th ed. 2018).  I am thrilled to have joined the author group for this casebook.  As a student, I learned from this casebook, and as a teacher, I have taught from it for more than 25 years.  The new edition has a new teacher’s manual with extensive problem sets.

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A New Deal for Old Age (Harvard University Press 2016)Inequality isn’t just for the young any more.  Some older Americans enjoy long lives, robust health, secure finances, and good job opportunities into their 70s and even 80s.  But lower-paid workers, on average, face shorter lives, poor health, and financial insecurity.  Social Security is a proud progressive achievement, but it wasn’t built to counter the new inequality in old age.  Without reform, Social Security will not bridge the growing gap — and may widen it.  A 21st-century reform agenda should include progressive retirement timing rules, a minimum benefit, and a phased retirement option. 

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Available at amazon.com

Taxation in Six Concepts (CCH, 2nd ed. 2018).  Tax doctrines rest on a handful of concepts — just six, in fact. Armed with six concepts, you can decipher the law. This book introduces the six concepts and uses them to unpack leading cases and real-world transactions. The new second edition is updated to reflect the 2017 tax legislation.

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Available at amazon.com

No Exit:  What Parents Owe Their Children and What Society Owes Parents (Oxford University Press 2004).  Healthy children need parents who stay for the long term, and a just society should recognize the economic costs that good parents incur.  We can (and should) enact policies to support parents who meet their “no exit” obligations.

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Available at amazon.com

The Stakeholder Society (Yale University Press, 1999)(with Bruce Ackerman).   Economic inequality in the United States has dramatically increased. Many, alas, seem resigned to this growing chasm between rich and poor. But what would happen if America were to make good on its promise of equal opportunity by granting every qualifying young adult a citizen’s stake of eighty thousand dollars? The distribution of wealth is currently so skewed that the stakeholding fund could be financed by an annual tax of two percent on the property owned by the richest forty percent of Americans. By summoning the political will to initiate stakeholding,  we can achieve a society that is more democratic, productive, and free.