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

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.

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

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Jacob Goldstein is an NPR correspondent and co-host of the Planet Money podcast. He is the author of the book Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing.