- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Congress is rushing to approve the first U.S. war bonds since World War II in the aftermath of the terror attacks, yet many economists say Americans could give a bigger boost by simply spending money.
Even the Treasury Department is giving the bonds idea a lukewarm response, although officials are careful to praise the "patriotic intent and sentiment" of the legislation's sponsors on Capitol Hill.
"A strong economy is perhaps our greatest asset as we move forward with this effort," said Treasury Department spokeswoman Tara Bradshaw. "We hope that consumers anxious to put their money to work for the nation will make the purchases planned before Sept. 11, as consumer spending is vital to the economy."
The Senate approved its version of the war bonds legislation last month as an amendment to the annual Treasury Department spending bill. The House is to take up an identical bill today, improving the likelihood that a final version will reach President Bush's desk this fall.
Proceeds from Treasury savings bonds, including war bonds, go into a general pot of money that can be used for any government expenditure. But supporters say bonds sold in the name of the anti-terrorism effort would be an important morale booster, giving ordinary Americans a way to help.
"War bonds will give voice to countless Americans who are looking for opportunities to make a difference in this time of need," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, the main Senate sponsor.
Tom Ochsenschlager, tax partner at Grant Thornton LLP, said the legislation was mostly symbolic "form over substance" because the government will do whatever it takes to finance the anti-terrorism effort. But he said the bonds themselves could become popular, especially with people looking for a relatively safe investment.
"It's better than a mattress," Mr. Ochsenschlager said. "My guess is, they could do fairly well with it. People are looking for any place to put their money."
The U.S. government first sold war bonds to the general public to help finance the Union effort in the Civil War. The World War II bonds were essentially a version of existing savings bonds, initially offered in May 1941 as defense bonds and changed to war bonds after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
More than $185 billion in war bonds were purchased during World War II, according to Rep. John Sweeney, New York Republican, the main House sponsor of the war bonds bill.
Even if the measure wins approval in Congress, it would likely take months for the Treasury to develop a new series of bonds for America's anti-terror war. The most recent new savings bond offering, the Series I bond, took 18 months to put together before its debut in 1998, according to officials at the Bureau of the Public Debt.

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