HPR Publication Examines National Budget

Last week, the Harvard Political Review released its Annual Report of the United States of America (ARUSA), a collection of articles seeking to provide a transparent view of the state of the federal budget.

The report aims to explain the government’s finances to the public and also to propose and analyze potential solutions to the nation’s fiscal problems.

“My hope is that [ARUSA] will flesh out the very vague image that politicians give to the budget,” said Georgia V. Stasinopoulos ’13, who wrote two articles for this year’s report.

The 2011 Annual Report is split into four categories. The first is an “income statement” for America, which breaks down the government’s expenditures and revenues over the last year, showing the exact sources of the roughly $1.3 trillion budget deficit. Another group of articles takes an in-depth look at major government expenditures, including Social Security, defense, and welfare. A third section analyzes sources of revenue for the government—focusing on taxes and borrowing—while the report concludes with a series of special reports on fiscal issues that have gained prominence in the last year, such as the threat of a government shutdown this past August.

Research and writing for the project began in early June of this year. Writer Jonathan K. Yip ’12-’13 began preliminary research by consulting think tanks as well as existing literature on the budget wars. From there, the challenge was finding something new to add to the conversation, he said.

The research process was complicated by the partisanship that dominates much of the dialogue about the budget.

“There are facts and then there is also spin, political messaging,” said Yip.

For Yip and his fellow writers, ARUSA was an exercise in isolating the facts of fiscal policy. The report sought to be bipartisan, recognizing that both parties contributed to the rise of the nation’s economic problems.

“In a year where political affiliation causes rifts in friendships and partnerships, I wanted ARUSA to portray a breed of problem-solving that recognizes the value of putting different types of heads together,” wrote co-editor Rachel L. Wagley ’11 in an email.

ARUSA also sought to make the language of fiscal policy—often prone to either jargon or oversimplification—accessible to readers. The hope is that the report will engage citizens in thinking about the impact of fiscal issues in their own communities.

“That’s really my hope: that people will be able to transpose the federal story into a local story,” said Stasinopoulos.

The report was also edited by Noah S. Rayman ’12, a Crimson Associate Managing Editor.

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