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Tax Expenditures
One typical characteristic differentiating U.S. public policy compared to Europe is that U.S. governments often use tax incentives rather than explicit government programs to pursue particular policy goals (which include providing pensions, medical insurance, home ownership, or private investment). For example, European governments might provide larger government pensions for retirees where the U.S. might provide modest government pensions through Social Security and then encourage firms to provide additional pensions for its workers by giving tax breaks for the funds that the firms devote to their pension plans. Look at the list of tax expenditures in Table 12-1 of your text. Which do you think are more valuable than others? Why? Would public goals sometimes be better pursued through explicit government spending rather than the equivalent tax breaks? Offer examples.ย  If you have the 7th ed. of the text, please review the table here.
Division of Government Functions
Our federal system divides responsibilities between the various levels of government (federal, state, local). Take a look at the government functions listed in the United Nations Classification of Governmental Functions in Appendix 5-2 of the text. Discuss which functions you think would best be handled at the central, state and local levels and why. Beyond determining which level of government may best handle certain functions, it is important to consider funding sources. How do you think functions at the state and local levels should be funded — through grants or own-source revenue? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each option?

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