A Q-and-A, Plus a Ditty and Contest as U.S. Races Toward the ‘Fiscal Cliff’

BY Paul Solman  June 27, 2012 at 1:16 PM EDT

Wednesday we debut a new song by the superstar of C&E music (Country & Eastern), Merle Hazard. We have featured Merle, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Nashville money manager Jon Shayne, proudly and often here on Making Sen$e. Merle’s new song, “Fiscal Cliff,” is a complete original — lyrics and music — and concerns the U.S. budget crisis that looms as 2012 creeps inexorably toward Dec. 31. That’s the last day of the old budget deal, remember, after which point, should Congress fail to act, the Bush tax cuts vanish and a set of draconian, across-the-board budget cuts go into effect. Jan. 1, 2013 is the day America supposedly hurtles over the fiscal cliff, though there was talk Tuesday of Congress agreeing to extend the date to March.

Accompanying the song, a note and contest from Merle:

Though I’m a country singer, I also love surf-style music. The only thing wrong with the genre is that these songs are always — of course — about surfing, as well as teenage romance and drag races. There should be more on macro-economic topics and political economy. So I’d like to do another one like ‘Fiscal Cliff,’ but I’m out of ideas. I’m hoping NewsHour audience might help. I have in mind a song contest. Submit a topic, a key phrase, or a whole lyric. Whatever you like. The Making Sen$e team and I will jointly select the winner. Assuming we get a good idea or two, I will turn it into an original song. There is no money involved, as the market for econ surf songs is somewhere between inactive and inconceivable. But the winner will garner Internet fame on Making Sen$e, perhaps even go viral, and will in any case earn a heart-felt thank-you from me. At the very least, you should have fun and a story to tell.

So there it is, Making Sen$e readers. Your chance at fame and…well, fame. Please send us your entry using the form below.


Meanwhile, I answer a reader’s question about using retirement funds to pay for a home.

Name: Terry Coleman

Question: I want to take some money out of my 401(k) to purchase a home. How do I go about this?

Making Sense

Paul Solman: Take out the money and pay for the home. Your 401(k) is an account. You withdraw from it as you would any other. There are only two rubs. One, if you’re less than 59 and a half, you will be required to pay a 10 percent penalty on the amount for early withdrawal. Second, no matter your age, you’ll have to pay taxes on the withdrawal just as if it were regular income.

The advantages of a 401(k), IRA or similar “tax-deferred” account are that you don’t have to pay taxes on its growth — assuming there is growth.

This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions