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We tried Articles of Confederation, when John Hanson was president of the United States. It didnít work. We decided to replace them with a Constitution. One of the problems was the national government didnít have any money (having to borrow from the states didnít work).

So, the Constitution requires the federal government to provide for spending on national issues. Over the years, the people, through their elected representatives, have enlarged the responsibilities of the federal government, for the simple reason that services were not being provided by the states.

What started as a standing army has become a host of federal responsibilities for national defense. And, those federal responsibilities now include caring for veterans, disabled people, older people and younger people, building highways, supporting education at every level etc.

While we have very specific ideas about what the government should do, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, we seem to have trouble figuring out how to pay for them. That problem has led some of us to decide we can do without some services.

Unfortunately, we have not identified a program that the majority of the people want to end. So, we are really stuck with how to pay, because there are so many programs that many people, but well short of a majority, want to end.

There are elected representatives who want to cut spending, but there is not yet a majority of them who can identify a program they want to cut, except for the recent and laudable reduction in farm subsidies. I bet there are plenty of people who strongly object to that, including those who wonder what happens if the prices farmers get return to historic low levels.

So, taxes or no taxes, we will be running large deficits for the foreseeable future until a majority of our representatives can agree to cut programs or reduce them.

I note that the problem with cutting taxes is that it doesnít seem to do what everyone thought it would do. A third of Presidents Bush and Obamaís multiple stimulus packages that were passed by Congress were tax cuts, like the payroll tax reduction that Obama requested and that Congress agreed to. So, reducing taxes hasnít done what I and everyone else pretty much thought it would. We havenít been increasing our spending to the levels we spent in 2007.

It is simple: We will not return to prosperity until we are all spending money on things. If we practice individual austerity, as we have been by paying down our debts and saving, then we are doing the same thing that the private sector is doing, where the bank accounts of Microsoft and Apple and GM and Chrysler and all of them are filled with literally trillions of dollars, waiting for a stable economy.

They are waiting for the unemployment to return to 6 percent, retail sales to stabilize and a political system that acts in a predictable and reliable manner. I suspect we are waiting for the same things. We will spend when everyone else does.

Until then, the government will have to spend money it does not have to do the things we require of it. Letís all remember that when things are going well, we need to take steps to reduce the national debt. But doing so now would make us Europe.

William Wetmore, Waldorf