Summary of White House Burning

The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You

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White House Burning book summary
Venture inside the White House for historical perspectives and present-day prescriptions on debt and deficits.


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The Founding Fathers might listen to today’s political harangues about the United States’ debt and deficits with bemusement. Not much has changed in the more than 200 years of America’s existence, except that the absolute numbers are a lot bigger than they were in 1776. Throughout US history, prudent and productive borrowing has advanced the nation’s economic progress. Today’s challenge – a growing number of retirees supported by fewer workers – offers a new twist to an old problem. Yet good remedies (a couple of which, like Congressional trims to George W. Bush’s tax cuts, have taken place since the book came out) exist to keep the US out of the financial abyss, say professors Simon Johnson and James Kwak, the co-authors of 13 Bankers. While always politically neutral, getAbstract recommends their levelheaded, rigorous explanation of what the US’s debt and deficits really mean.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How debt and deficits form a recurring theme in US history
  • How America spends its money and how that affects the deficit
  • What myths exist about the deficit
  • What remedies can tackle the deficit and protect Americans


A History of Debt and Deficits
The US was born “a fiscal basket case.” Burdened with debt, the new nation defaulted on its principal and interest payments during its first years as a state. It could barely provide for its troops, who prevailed over the British during the Revolutionary ...
Get the key points from this book in less than 10 minutes.

About the Authors

MIT professor Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, and University of Connecticut Law School Professor James Kwak previously wrote 13 Bankers.

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    Robert Giacobbe 3 years ago
    Thank you and I appreciate that. Let me give props to getabstract, that your service allowed me to view the contents of the book and decide not buy it before I had made a purchase that I would have regretted. In fact, your abstract was of sufficient quality to give me the information I needed while the book (for my facts and opinions) would not have been.
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    Robert Giacobbe 3 years ago
    I started reading this abstract with interest until I came across the phrase "radical conservatism" which stopped me dead in my tracks. Radical conservatism, really? Only some cloistered, liberal, academic, ivory tower-ensconsed know-nothings could have come up with that term. Radical conservatism, in the sense that I would like to keep more of the money I work very hard to earn, would like a smaller government, less spending, more freedoms and at least some nominal adherence to the principles put forth in the US federal Constitution? That kind of radical conservatism?? Oh, ok then.

    We now have a federal government that tells us that it needs four trillion dollars per yer to operate and it must borrow half of that to operate. All-inclusive tax rates, even for the middle class, are now at 50% or greater. Government spending is in run-away mode with a president who refuses to submit an annual budget as the law requires. Obama's own budget projections show our national debt reaching $22 trillion in the next few years. Under obama, 118,000 new federal employees have been added. And the Pew research company says there are more than one trillion dollars in unfunded pension liabilities among state government employees that cannot be covered. And these professor genuises want to look me in the eye and tell me that "radical conservatism" - spend less, tax less, smaller government - is one of the reasons??? Get outta here. In my role as a consultant, I have done work in several federal agencies, and I could write an entire library on the waste and inefficiencies that can be found there. The most inefficient and wasteful private company is scores more efficient that any given federal agency.

    We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Get it yet?
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      Erica Rauzin 3 years ago
      Dear Mr. Glacobbe - Thank you very much for your comment. We appreciate your feedback. getAbstract is completely neutral politically and tries only to select books that show a wide and overall balanced spectrum of viewpoints. Alas, that means that sometimes the authors hit a nerve – on both sides of the debate. If you decide to write that book about your findings inside government agencies, we'd buy a copy for sure. Erica Rauzin, Managing Editor, getAbstract

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By the same authors

  • Book

    Simon Johnson and James Kwak

    Pantheon Books, 2010


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