The Yellow Pad by Robert Rubin, wherein he demonstrates the power of a liberal arts education.

In a nutshell: grab a pad of paper, write everything down, and think through it all. Rubin uses examples from his life to highlight the process, leaving its application as an exercise for the reader.

Not a single Republican voted for our 1993 budget, which passed with slim margins in both the House and the Senate. I had been involved in politics for a long time before joining the administration. I came to Washington thinking that, at the end of the day, people were more often than not going to work together to do what they thought was the right thing for the country. It turned out to be very different than I expected.

In retrospect, its possible that my time in Washington coincided with the start of a fundamental shift among many political leaders away from a commitment to effective government.

Too often being called a politician is seen as a negative, when in fact its a skill set that is essential for our system to work.

I witnessed an effective example of this kind of skill in 1998, when members of President Clintons economic team were trying to figure out how to spend an unexpected budget surplus, the first in thirty years. Republicans wanted to spend the money on tax cuts; we wanted to use it to pay down the national debt. We were confident that over the long run, our plan would prove more beneficial to the country.

But the president told us that he could never make the case to the American people that debt reduction should be a higher priority than tax cuts. The first involved long-term, little understood, and complicated benefits such as lower interest rates, less risk of financial market disruption, improved business confidence, greater resources available for public investment over time, and greater resilience for dealing with a future financial or geopolitical emergency. The second involved lower taxes.

Then John Hilley, who was at the time the White House legislative director, came up with a clever formulation: Save Social Security First.

The most important divide, in my view, is not between fiscal hawks and doves. It's between those who think rigorously and carefully about questions surrounding fiscal issues and those who act as though these questions have easy answers