One of the biggest stories of 1988 that affects most Americans was lost in headlines decrying the national debt.

While Americans were busy pointing an accusing finger at our country's leaders for carelessly allowing the debt to rise to absurd proportions, their own savings accounts were being depleted - or not being built up in the first place.Nationally-respected economist Barry Bosworth observes that Americans are spending 98 cents of every dollars they earn. Savings rates are as low as they been since the Great Depression.

When Americans fail to save, it means banks don't always have enough money to lend to firms wanting to build the new plants and offices that create new jobs and new income.

What can be done about this?

A recession might shock today's free-spending baby-boomers into saving through sheer fear. Depression-era adults have never forgotten the terrible insecurity of living hand-to-mouth. The fact that individual savings increased following the October 1987 stock market crash shows that tragedy can induce prudent saving. But then a crash and a recession would mean less money would be available to be saved.

IRA's are a good idea, but evidence shows that most of those who deposited savings in this program would have saved anyway.

Americans don't save for the future. They refuse to face the inevitability of the financial needs of their golden years.

Consumer habits and personal values need to be dramatically changed. It is hypocritical to criticize national leaders for allowing the country's debt to skyrocket while saving only two cents on every dollar.