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Whether as politician, journalist, or concerned citizen, those who make judgments about how government policies are likely to affect the performance of the economy need to understand how the economy works. Otherwise, they are left with half-remembered college courses and a collection of slogans, myths, and rules-of-thumb that are often wrong. In this new book, Charles Schultze employs an unusual format for explaining to busy policymakers and interested citizens how the US economy works. He imagines that an incoming President has decided to set aside time each week to learn about the economy and has asked his Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors to provide him with a series of memos devoted to that purpose. In these memos, Schultze seeks to explain the key economic relationships as a background for making macroeconomic policy judgments-relationships among domestic and foreign economic forces, and government policies and economic outcomes. The memos rely heavily on the use of real-world examples from recent economic events and policy debates.
They focus principally on such policy-related issues as inflation, unemployment, long-term economic growth, and the flow of international trade and capital. The memos are divided into three sections: the first set lays the background, explaining why it is particularly important for policymakers to distinguish between those economic forces which affect total demand in the economy and those which affect total supply; the second addresses the problem of economic stability; and the third looks at long-term economic growth.
Charles L. Schultze is a senior fellow in the Economic Studies program at Brookings. He was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Carter administration and director of the U.S. Bureau of the Budget during the Johnson administration.