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December 26, 2012 10:12 AM Citizen Budgeting

By Daniel Luzer

So maybe this whole fiscal cliff thing has got you really worried about the national debt. Maybe, having given up on the idea that our elected officials will solve this problem, you wonder if there’s anything you can do. Maybe you’re motivated by the spirit of the season to give back. What are your options? Well, there’s certainly something you can pretend to do.

Apparently many Americans think they can begin to pay down the nation debt through personal gifts to the U.S. government. According to an article by Eli Saslow in the Washington Post:

As the deadlocked U.S. government flirts with the “fiscal cliff” and the national debt rises beyond $16.2 trillion, [Scott] Soucy and a handful of other Americans have decided to take actions of their own. A woman in Ohio left $1 million in her will for the Department of Treasury. An elementary school in Houston raised $692 at a bake sale. A man in the Pacific Northwest started a “debt-busting” nonprofit.
Soucy has spent the past two years sending a small portion of his earnings to the Bureau of the Public Debt in Parkersburg, W.Va., writing checks so often it has become “like muscle memory,” he says. Now he has begun trying to persuade everyone else to pledge the same donation: $1 from each paycheck for employees, and $1 from each major transaction for businesses. He believes the plan could pay down the debt — over decades, if perfectly executed.

Under a plan Soucy dreamed up, every adult would contribute about $20 a year to alleviate the national debt. Large corporations would contribute about $1 for each business “transaction over $10.”

The national debt is now $16 trillion. That’s about $52,000 for every man, woman, and child in this country.

“It’s patriotism when our country needs us,” Soucy told Saslow. “Plain and simple.”

Yes, I suppose it is patriotic. It would, however, require the participation of every citizen and large business in the United States of America. It also requires that the federal government not generate any more debt.

Apparently U.S. citizens have sent the Treasury more than $7 million in personal checks to pay down the debt in 2012.

The other day while I was discussing my student loans my brother’s three-year-old gave me a nickel. It’s the same sort of thing. Nice gesture, insignificant impact.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer
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