The Tuesday Podcast: What If Everybody Chipped In To Pay Off The National Debt?

America's Credit Card



Back in the '80s, Kay Fishburn had a dream: Americans would band together and make voluntary donations to bring the national debt way down. She became something of a minor celebrity.

On today's Planet Money, we check in with Fishburn. And we talk to an economist, who explains why it would be a bad idea for Americans to raid their savings accounts to pay off the national debt.

It's all part of our ongoing quest to understand this whole gifts-to-pay-down-the-debt thing.

Last week, we posted this graphic on gifts to pay down the debt between 2004 and 2009. We also posted the spreadsheet that had the data.

A few readers pointed out an interesting quirk in the data: there were 48 payments of $129.17 each. They came in every two weeks or so for about two years, starting in January, 2006.

We also got an email from Adam Eugene Osborne, of Waltham, Mass., who made a recent donation:

Probably the best $100.00 I spent in a long time. Makes me feel, like I did something to really help the country (even if it is such a minuscule amount compared to the real debt).

For more from Kay Fishburn, listen to the full audio of her 1990 interview with former Morning Edition host, Bob Edwards.



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