<B>Other people's money</B>Peter G. Peterson, who served as secretary of commerce under President Nixon and is the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, states his position clearly in the subtitle to his new book <B>Running On Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It</B>. Peterson's message is simple: the federal government is spending and promising to spend trillions of dollars more than it is taking in, a practice that is saddling coming generations with debts they cannot possibly pay. Politicians spend so extravagantly because it wins them votes without forcing them to deal with long-term consequences. "During the Vietnam War," Petersen observes, "conservatives relentlessly pilloried Lyndon Johnson for his fiscal irresponsibility. He only wanted guns and butter. Today, so-called conservatives are outpandering LBJ. They must have it all: guns, butter, <I>and</I> tax cuts. . . . [T]he tax cuts pushed by both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush did not, as promised, pay for themselves, but led to an explosion of government debt."We can do a U-turn on this road to ruin, Peterson says, by such common-sense and relatively painless approaches as indexing Social Security payments to rises in prices rather than wages, mandating personal savings accounts for retirement and bringing more candor and clarity to the way the government budgets its money.
<I>Edward Morris reviews from Nashville.</I>