Some terrible enervation of common sense by leaders has been dragging down the American people.

Our leaders have defaulted on their responsibilities. They have permitted the federal government to run up a massive public debt. Now they can't figure out how to pay for yesterday's bills with tomorrow's grim prospects. Yet they continue to spend as if they will never have to pay.Congress and each successive administration has stood by while foreigners have taken American inventions, developed them and sold them back to Americans. The resulting trade imbalance now threatens our economic stability.

Where has all the money gone, and why hasn't it bought the nation a modicum of security? The money has been poured into well-intentioned programs that were abused and mismanaged. For instance, the government has spent billions of dollars ostensibly to prop up family farms, but most of the subsidies have gone to big corporate farms. In spite of all the spending, the family farm is nearly extinct.

The government also guaranteed savings and loan deposits under the naive impression that home-loan thrifts would make the American dream their primary business. Now it's the American nightmare. More often than not, the federal guarantee money was used to protect investments in wild ventures.

An astounding number of thrifts are now bankrupt, and the depositors must be bailed out, just as the government promised they would be.

America has issued a written invitation for economic catastrophe to move in anytime it wants. Our political leaders have fostered a climate of complacency and sleeping neglect, and the rank-and-file voters took that sleeping pill willingly. When Congress postponed hard remedies and refused to make the tough decisions, Americans took that as a little more borrowed time. The Reagan years were the epitome of borrowed time. Deregulation fostered greed at all levels.

Once again it is an even-numbered year, and the first Tuesday in November is rolling around. Once again Americans have a chance to make a difference. They can keep the self-serving members of Congress who promise painless, tax-free prosperity, or they can throw a few of the rascals out. Americans can stay home from the polls altogether, or worse, cast an uninformed vote for someone simply because the name looks familiar.

There is still enough time to cast an informed vote. Ask the reference librarian at your local public library for a newspaper index. Look up "savings and loans" and cross every incumbent off your ballot who greased the skids for the thrift industry. Next scan the newspaper and TV ads for your candidates, and cross anyone off the ballot who refuses to address issues.

Finally, call your representatives in Congress and ask for a listing of all the honorariums they have taken since the last election and all the money they have received from political action committees. If they won't give you a list, or if you don't like what's on that list, scratch them off your ballot, too.

If anyone is left, vote for that person. If no one is left, get active in your local party organization to guarantee that you never again have to make a choice between the best of evils.