If your budget is strained, as Uncle Sam's is, you might consider praying for lower interest rates. It might help his budget, and perhaps yours too.
It might be thoughtful of you to do so privately, however, because while almost everyone's budget is pressured, not all see lower interest rates as the solution to the problem. Some folks rely on interest income.This latter group, therefore, may be as irritated by your prayers as the farmer with crops withering in the sun who hears the forecaster assure him it "will be another fine weekend, with no rain in sight."
Like the weather, everyone is affected by government budgets, and most of those budgets are in trouble. They include interest payments. In 1991, federal interest payments will account for $1,808 of taxes for the typical family.
In all, says the Tax Foundation, which dissects budgets in an effort to make the bits more meaningful if not more edible, direct and indirect federal taxes will claim 28.2 percent of a typical family's income this year.
It estimates that this so-called typical family of two dependent children and two workers with a combined income of $46,000 must pay Uncle Sam $12,984 in taxes.
Atop this, they must also pay state and local taxes of $4,155 or 9 percent of their annual income, bringing their total to $17,139 or 37.3 percent of their gross income. It leaves just $28,861 for the typical house-hold.
The breakdown of that after-tax income makes it obvious that all this government spending and taxing creates pressures on household budgets, too.
After paying $9,329 for housing and household operations, $6,291 for transportation and $5,031 for food and tobacco, the typical household is left $8,212 for everything else - and everything else is a big list.
In fact, the list is almost solely of necessities. Health and personal care consume $1,872, clothing $1,716, insurance and pensions $911. It leaves $1,747 for recreation and $1,966 for "all other," including your tax preparation.
Since millions of families find it difficult to spend less than $2,000 for "all other," especially since that sum could involve unanticipated expenses, it is clear where cuts must be made: in necessities and recreation.
Where are savings and investments - that is, capital accumulation? Too small to have a category of its own, it resides in "all other." It helps answer a question perennially asked: How can America compete without capital?
It helps explain also why so much concern is expressed about continued budget deficits, which add more each year to a $3 trillion mountain of debt on which interest must be paid. No wonder there's enthusiasm for lower interest rates.
Lower interest rates might at least make a tiny dent in those federal interest payments, which now constitute the third largest item in the budget, topped only by income security and national defense.
To lower interest rates, and the federal tax required to pay them, might offer some small relief to those household budgets, perhaps allowing a few more dollars to be alloted to family needs and perhaps some discretionary spending.
But, while Federal Reserve policies can produce lower interest rates, they can't do much about other budget items. Says economist William Dunkelberg, "Only Congress can do it with responsible legislation and some common sense."
Are these forthcoming? Dunkelberg, who is dean of the school of business and management at Temple University, offers this comment:
"Structurally, Congress has not only failed to solve the deficit problem . . . but it is prepared to heap on a whole new set of cost-raising regulations."