Debt clock

September 09, 2000

WHEN TIMES ARE BAD, people love to kvetch. When times are good, though, people just tend to yawn.

That seems the logic -- or illogic -- behind a New York real estate developer's decision to place a red, white and blue shroud over his National Debt Clock, an electronic billboard near Times Square. Since 1989, it had recorded the nation's soaring debt by the second.

Then a funny thing happened. Washington started running a budget surplus, President Clinton began paying off some of this debt ($100 billion so far) and the debt clock reversed course. Ever so slowly, the digits on the display are dropping, after reaching a high of nearly $5.7 billion.

Apparently, the clock's owner, Douglas Durst, couldn't stand the thought of promoting good news to New Yorkers at the busy intersection of 43rd Street and Avenue of the Americas.

So he covered the clock, preventing passers-by from following the progress in Washington on reducing that mountain of debt.

A Bronx cheer for Mr. Durst. The downward trend of the National Debt Clock is accelerating. The pace should quicken as those federal surpluses grow. That's jolly good news even cynical New Yorkers should appreciate -- and view with their own eyes.

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