I have lived through three fiscal crises--a federal budget deficit, a balanced budget and now a budget surplus. None of them has been any fun.
When I was young, politicians, presidents and economists used to talk about budget deficits all the time. We were spending more money than we were taking in.
Members of Congress always blamed the other side for the deficit, but refuse to give credit when we have a surplus.
The answer to a deficit was more taxes. The Republicans hated the budget deficit and said we were giving money to people overseas and those on relief and mothers who were having too many children. They declared that because of our deficit, we are lazy and on the dole.
Somewhere along the way, we suddenly balanced the budget. Both the Republicans and the Democrats took credit for it. The problem was that no one had seen a balanced budget before, so it was impossible to believe we really had one. People went about their business, and no one made a big deal of it.
Then, under President Clinton--and no one gives him much credit for it--we had a surplus of billions of dollars, more money than even Bill Gates has.
Suddenly everyone started fighting over the money. Some wanted to give everybody a tax break of $15.45, except for rich people, who could deduct eight rooms in their apartments and estates. Other people wanted to solve the Social Security problem, and still others wanted to paint Utah a deep purple.
The argument about the budget surplus is bitter. The United States is not used to having more money than it spends.
Here are some of the ideas that have been floating around:
* We give the money to baseball players to supplement their paltry incomes.
* We pay everyone's Visa and MasterCard bills so they can start clean all over again.
* Everyone in the United States would receive two tickets to the Broadway show "The Lion King."
And the battle goes on. It's the same fight people have when they have too much money in the bank. Fight, fight, fight. But what I don't like about it is the way a budget surplus turns Republicans against Democrats.