Advice for U.S. and us

February 06, 2001 12:00 am

First things first we will not pretend to be experts in the realm of federal financing and macroeconomic theory.

Lets leave that to the talking heads from Wall Street and the bureaucrats inside the beltway.

But the tax question facing America today is all of our business. That is our money and the national debt is our debt.

We advise the new administration to propose a tax cut only if it is firmly wedded to a commitment to pay down our national debt.

Consider, for a moment, responsible home economics. For the sake of argument, lets look in on our fictitious neighbors Joe and Sally Baker.

The Bakers, like most of us, owe hefty but not insurmountable sums on their home, automobiles and credit cards.

This has been a banner year for both of their careers, and Joe and Sally have both earned promotions and raises at their jobs.

Already on a manageable budget albeit one that involves servicing a large amount of debt the Bakers eye the possibilities that their new-found income could buy them.

Joe covets a big screen TV.

Sally thinks the couch is looking a little shabby.

Credit counselors, however, would advise them to pay down their high-interest debts their credit cards first. The money they save in interest over the long run will more than pay for a TV and a couch but only if they save for those purchases instead of assuming more debt.

A credit advisor would also urge the Bakers to switch their mortgage and/or car payments to twice-monthly payments instead of monthly.

Over the course of a year, they will make the equivalent of 13 monthly payments instead of 12. And that extra payment toward the principal will save the couple thousands in interest payments over the life of a 30-year mortgage.

A counselor might also advise the Bakers not to count their chickens before they hatch. Both have jobs today. But if one or both lose their job, servicing a large debt would become a serious burden.

The Bakers raises are the projected tax surplus we will have it so long as all things remain equal in the economy.

Their visions of new purchases are tax cuts or new programs.

And their household debt is our looming national debt.

President George W. Bush should listen to his well-paid advisors, then borrow a page from King Lear.

Slipping into civilian clothes and a fake mustache, he should disguise the budget as his own home budget by lopping off a few zeros from the end of each category.

Then he could pay a visit to a credit counselor or two and see what advice they would offer an American burdened by debt.

That advice could hold a few pearls of wisdom for an America burdened by debt, too.