When I walk into the voting booth on Nov. 6, I will write in my own name rather than pull the lever for my current U.S. representative and senator. After 27 years of successfully managing a household budget, I believe I'm better equipped to decide on this nation's budget than any of the incumbents.
I for one am not interested in whether the Democrats or Republicans are to blame for the last decade of budget bungling. What I do want is to witness a group of men and women, not little boys and girls, who can rise above their own egos and campaign strategies and work out a long-term budget that sets national priorities for several years instead of this "seat of the pants" maneuvering the electorate has endured far too long.
I work for a federal agency that operates under a six-year plan. We know where we're going six years down the road, but we don't yet know how much money we'll have to spend in the current fiscal year. Nor have we known for several years -- until November.
Years ago Congress relinquished to the president its authority to develop a national budget. Now we must listen to its members whine that they were left out of the process. JUDITH L. McBRIDE Laurel
House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich is right. A 12-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax is simply outrageous. If the average motorist uses maybe 15 gallons of gas a week, why, that's an extra $1.80. That's less than the cost of a Big Mac.
If you think Americans are willing to pay less than the cost of a Big Mac a week to help prevent inevitable economic chaos for our country, then you're wrong.
Lead us on toward disaster Rep. Gingrich -- we'll show 'em!
ERIK F. SMITH Bethesda
The nation's budget crisis and the effectiveness of Congress, the president and the people over the past decade to manage their finances can be measured against the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson:
''I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers . . . We must make our choice between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of caring for them, they will be happy.'' STEPHEN W. GAMMARINO Rockville
How much is government responsible for these difficult times? Deregulation and the tax revisions were made law during this past decade. The result: a decade in which rich people got richer, and some of them helped destroy faith in our nation's banking system. It seems that many of us -- including Congress -- were brainwashed by supply-side economics. Now we have a crisis.
If we had true statesmen in Congress we would fix this inequity by raising the tax rate for incomes over $150,000 to 33 percent or 35 percent, as well as significantly increasing the taxes on gasoline, alcohol, cigarettes and luxuries. True leaders would also increase the budgets for protecting the environment and for educating and caring for children. We have spent more on banking deregulation, defense and debt payments than on children and the environment. We need to ask: What are we defending, and whose debts are we paying? Democracy cannot survive without a healthy middle class. The middle class and its children cannot foot the bill and remain healthy. Where are our leaders?
KEVIN P. DWYER Bethesda
Let's hear it for George Bush as he proposes Leona Helmsley-style options for balancing the budget -- no one pays but the little people.
FREDERICK W. LAWRENCE Chevy Chase
Robert J. Samuelson begins his Oct. 9 op-ed column: "The bruising budget battle has, in a curious way, vindicated Ronald Reagan." Nonsense! This is the Reagan legacy that we are suffering through, and every mention of the deficit should be as the "Reagan deficit" to keep reminding us of the wildly extravagant 1980s. The Reagan/Bush administration brought this country down from its status as the world's great creditor to a condition of shameful indebtedness. These two feel-good presidents, who have been unable to ask for any sacrifice by the people, have presided over a decade-long buying spree without ever giving a thought to paying the bills.
Mr. Samuelson ends his article saying, "elected officials believe that making any unpleasant choice is an act of enormous -- and foolish -- courage." I don't know what they believe, but what is needed is leadership.
President Bush had the perfect opportunity on the day that Saddam Hussein devoured his tiny neighbor. The president should have stepped off the deck of his high-powered boat and leveled with the American people -- telling us that we are in trouble, and to get through it will require effort and sacrifice by all. Instead, he chose the easy, feel-good way. So, we continue our profligacy, continue to squander our resources and continue to run up huge bills. Don't worry, be happy!
Now the inevitable crunch is here, and even if the administration and Congress agree on a plan, it will take years if not decades to overcome the Reagan deficit. The public seems to blame Congress, but the only leadership I have seen exercised has come from Sens. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and George Mitchell (D-Maine) and Reps. Thomas Foley (D-Wash.), Robert Michel (R-Ill.), and (God forgive me) Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).
I suppose it is illogical to ask the president, or any other politician, to make hard choices just before Election Day, but that's what leadership is all about. Our leaders seem to have forgotten that they are elected to lead all of the people, not only a party and not only certain constituencies, but all of the people. My bet would be that the people would respond positively to a call for sacrifice provided it was shared by all rather than being levied only on the middle and lower levels of our society. EUGENE K. KEEFE Alexandria
In the game of casting blame for the budget crisis, too little blame has been assigned to what may be the real villain: the Constitution.
The Constitution should be indicted for: Providing for elections of House members every two years, with no limit on tenure, thus ensuring that a number of representatives are running for office at any one time and concentrating on reacting to the loudest voices in their constituencies rather than on leadership. Allowing for "divided government" -- a president of one party and a Congress controlled by the other -- a recipe for stagnation and gridlock. Allowing under the vaunted system of "checks and balances" a requirement that both houses of Congress (two collections of committees, committee chairmen, egos) must agree before anything important can happen, another prescription for gridlock. Creating in the Senate a body that is intrinsically undemocratic, in which a senator from California can represent 54 times as many people as a senator from Wyoming.
What we have witnessed recently could not happen in a parliamentary system such as prevails in most democracies. If the United States is to remain in a position of leadership in world affairs, it must demonstrate a greater capacity to conduct its own affairs. The spectacle of the budget debacle can only weaken our hand in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere. It is time to consider streamlining our government to make it more responsive. BEN LOEB Bethesda