Puzzle no longer, economists, for I have learned why Americans are saving less money.
8:40 a.m. I dial the number listed on the back of a phamplet formidable entitled, "Information about Treasury Bills Sold at Original Issue."
Instead of the expected greeting, I hear, "Hello." Undaunted, thinking Donald Reagan has advised Treasury employes to be less standoffish, I ask "Would you please mail me a application for T-bills?"
"I don't know what you talking about."
(Perphps he is a political appointee, not yet familiar with all aspects of his job.) "T-bills are Treasury bills. The government borrows money from taxpayers and repays the sum with interest."
"How did you get this phone number? THIS IS THE SECRET SERVICE!"
Having lived with a bureaucrat and the whims of a bureaucracy for more than two decades, I am not surprised that new phones were installed in his office yesterday, and that the Secret Service was somehow given the former phone number of the Securities Transaction Branch of the Bureau of the Public Debt.
After searching in his new directory, he gives me an up-to-date number.
The young woman at the number informs me that I do not have financial services. I have reached disbursements; they have nothing to do with applications. She promises to find out the correct number. After consultations, the group at disbursements is sure they have come up with the answer.
Unfortunately, the number is for the public department unissued securites branch which handles only savings bonds and T-notes, but not T-bills.
"You have, says the woman, "the wrong number for T-bill applications. Do you have any idea what the correct number is?"
Laughing amiably, I explain that if I knew the correct number, I would not have called the wrong one. She confers with a coworker who is sure that Gail, in the division of investors accounts, should handle this transaction.
Gail is not in her office. Her secretary says, "Fo-rms" as though it were a foreign word. "We don't send out application forms." (Long pause.) "Hold on. I'll find out whom you should call." (Longer pause.) "Try Lou or Jack at this number for forms.
Lou, I learn is not in today and Jack is on the telephone, which really does not matter, because neither one mails out T-bill application forms. The answerer thinks of two possible sections where I might find someone who could take care of my request.
The first number, the book entry account section, is busy. The second number is answered by Mr. Jackson. He knows about T-bills; he knows about application forms. He mails out T-bill application forms!
Futhermore, Mr. Jackson is non-commital when I excalim "Hallelujah!" into the phone.
9:15 a.m. I call the Secret Service man back (heady stuff having that number) and provide him with the correct number for other would-be T-bill purchasers.
Lots of luck, Ronnie and Dave and Don and Murray and . . .