Many can share the blame for the budget fiasco, but fault can be laid principally to our government leaders and those segments of the public that resist tax increases regardless of the consequences.

As to the first, this once great country now finds itself in decline primarily because it lacks leadership. Leaders would not base their policies on public opinion polls. Leaders would speak out against the attitudes of the "me" generation and would not pander to the baser instincts of their constituents. Leaders would not mislead the public with mindless comments like "read my lips."

As to the second, we are faced with a pernicious combination of selfishness and ignorance on the part of large segments of the public -- selfishness toward those in our society who are in need and ignorance about the ability of any county to succeed over the long run when it constantly spends more than it earns. The public must be made to understand that some sacrifice in the form of taxes will be necessary to pay our government's ever increasing debts, or we will pay in an increasingly devalued dollar. The public demands many government services and must understand that these services require payment.

It's time the president and Congress accepted their roles as leaders and, if necessary, stuffed a fair tax bill down the public's throat, a bill that would maintain necessary services and reduce the deficit and that would include higher taxes for the wealthy and for corporations as well as higher gasoline and so-called sin taxes.

SHERIDAN NEIMARK Silver Spring

I read with interest your list of federal closings resulting from the budget deadlock {news story, Oct. 8}. The obvious question to me was why the federal government is even in the museum business (Smithsonian Institution, National Gallery of Art), the library business (Library of Congress), the entertainment business (Ford's Theatre, Wolf Trap Farm Park), the road-maintenance business (picnic areas along GW Parkway) and the park business (Rock Creek Park Nature Center, Great Falls Park, Assateague Island National Seashore)?

The services provided to patrons of these and many other federal recreational facilities should be paid for by user fees and contributions, or the facility in question should be shut down. There is nothing so essential about these services that taxpayers should be forced to pay for them.

Better still, why doesn't the federal government sell off these and other businesses that could be handled just as well, if not better, by the private sector, and stick to its primary function, protecting the lives, liberty and property of American citizens on American soil? MARY GINGELL Annandale

The most amazing thing about the budget crisis is that for more than 30 years Americans have put up with it, while at the same time individually solving their own budgetary problems. Let's face it -- solving the budget crisis is simple; it has only one important rule -- don't spend more money than you have.

Consider for a moment that throughout this country millions balance their budgets and manage their money. Most even save for a rainy day. It is not easy, but we do it, and this is true for all economic levels. No one is able to consistently spend more than he or she earns. Only the federal government can do that and has done so without hesitation since Eisenhower was president.

Consider your own personal finances. Where do you seek help with financial planning if you need it? Most of us from time to time will seek advice from financial planners, bankers and the like on saving and planning for the future. But we rely upon ourselves first, because we know that no one is more concerned about our money than we are.

But what does the government do? It gives responsibility for the biggest budget in the world to a bunch of politicians who in most cases have a background in law. How many of us would allow a politician or a lawyer to manage our paychecks?

We look to those with experience in the law to be our Supreme Court judges, so why don't we look to those with successful financial backgrounds to manage our government's money? We need a branch of government called "Budget." Much like the judicial, which is responsible for interpreting the laws made by the legislature, the Budget branch would give final approval to the budget and have the power to reduce it as necessary to bring it into balance. The Budget branch could be established by a constitutional amendment with members selected from the financial world to lifetime terms, in much the same way as Supreme Court justices. Thus constituted, it would not be subjected to the whims of Congress and the electorate.

Until we are willing to depoliticize the existing government budget process, we will continue to face the type of budget problems that exist today. And one day we will surely face the catastrophe that eventually must result from fiscal irresponsibility.

DERWIN F. KIM Bethesda

Regardless of what Congress and the media say, I commend President Bush for acting responsibly and shutting down the government last weekend. The president, like any caring parent, dealt with an unruly and undisciplined child (Congress) by making it responsible for its actions or lack of action. Unfortunately, all of us felt the repercussions.

While I know this was a difficult choice for the president, it shows his leadership and his strong belief in doing what is right even if it may not be politically safe. If only the elected officials on Capitol Hill could be as brave and worry less about special interests and their own financial well-being and chances for reelection.

Although a government shutdown would mean economic difficulties for my family, my member of Congress (note I do not say my "representative") who voted "no" on the budget, will receive a "no" vote from me in the upcoming election.

A balanced budget for this country is essential. A line-item veto (which Congress talks about but isn't willing to concede) would be of great benefit. But most important, we need members of Congress who can do their job responsibly, make tough decisions when needed and act in the best interests of this country. I thank the president for being a leader and not a wimp. ANNE B. EARLE Manassas