A snappy and informative history of the American economy from FDR's New Deal to the triumph of Reaganomics in the 1980's. Nossiter (The Global Struggle for More, 1987, etc.) breaks no new theoretical ground here, turning Keynesian, monetarist, or supply-sider as it suits him. Focusing on government policy, he begins with a description of the first, hesitant steps during the 1930's toward a Keynesian understanding of the government's economic role. He argues that FDR's economic policies were not as radical or successful as generally believed, and that it was only America's involvement in WW II that pulled the country out of the Depression. One of the most disturbing themes running through the book is how often the government has used increased military spending to bring the economy out of recession. Nossiter gives high marks to the Truman Administration for avoiding a depression with demobilization in 1946, to the Eisenhower Administration for managing the prosperous economy of the 1950's, and to the Kennedy Administration for initiating a tax cut and controlling inflation. Johnson turned out to be the spoiler when he tried to pursue the Vietnam War and the Great Society programs at the same time without raising taxes. The economy overheated, the US was eventually forced off the gold standard, and stagflation was born. Nossiter loses his way when he begins to discuss the 1980's, simplifying and weakening his argument by having only bad things to say for what he calls the ""economics of slack."" Nossiter, though, displays a journalist's instinct for the drama of government and economic policy making, enlivening his fast-moving text with anecdotes and with sardonic quips at the expense of business oligarchs and government bureaucrats.