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Can We Talk?

The Case for Bipartisan Consensus on Economic Policy

By Alice M. Rivlin

The Case for Bipartisan Consensus on Economic Policy

Partisan warfare and gridlock in Washington threaten to squander America’s opportunity to show the world that democracy can deal constructively with serious economic challenges. Instead of working together to mitigate destabilizing problems—slow growth, exploding inequality, climate change, rising debt—our elected leaders are sabotaging our economic future by blaming and demonizing each other in hopes of winning big in the next election. They are weakening America’s capacity for world leadership and the case for democracy here and abroad.

Alice M. Rivlin, with decades of experience in economic policymaking, argues that there are economic policies that could lead to sustainable American prosperity more widely shared, but crafting them requires the tough, time-consuming work of consensus building and bipartisan negotiation. Political leaders are acting as though our Constitution embodied a winner-take-all parliamentary system, when in fact our constitutional separation of powers rightly requires compromise and consensus building.

Rivlin believes that Americans can and must save our hyperpartisan politicians from themselves. She makes the case that on many practical economic issues the public is far less divided than partisan politicians and sensationalist media would have us believe. She draws attention to numerous hopeful efforts to bridge partisan and ideological divides in Washington, in state capitols and city governments, and communities around the country, and advocates a major national effort to enable citizens and future leaders to learn and gain practice in the art of listening to each other and working together to find common ground.

This book is a practical guide for Americans across the political spectrum who are agonizing over partisan warfare, incivility, and policy gridlock and looking for ways they can help to get our democratic policy process back on a constructive track before it is too late.

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