A dour audit of the debt-ridden domestic economy by a Wall Street Journal columnist; Malabre fears its prodigal beneficiaries are living on borrowed time--and money. Malabre cites series after series of mournful boxcar numbers to show how illusory US prosperity may really be. For openers, America is $7-trillion in hock, and the total continues to climb at a heady pace. By the turn of the century, the author estimates, yearly interest on federal obligations alone could top $200 billion--more than fiscal 1980's worrisome deficit. With allowance for fluctuations in the perdurable business cycle, he believes GNP growth averaging 3 percent annually could be sustained; unfortunately, a 5-percent rate will be necessary to pay the improvident private and public sectors' many pipers. In the meantime, Malabre notes, statistical trends have turned unfavorable in productivity, trade, executive compensation, defense spending, and allied areas. In reviewing the contributions of Keynesians, industrial planners, monetarists, supply-siders, and other schools of thought since WW II, Malabre concludes no single ideology, however influential on an interim basis, offers a simple, let alone painless, solution to the nation's economic problems. At a minimum, he predicts, pointing to early-warning signals like the recent increase in bank failures, belts must be tightened and expectations of an ever-rising standard of living tempered to new realities. Weighing possible outcomes, the author sees little prospect of such worst-case scenarios as hyperinflation and a deflationary collapse. In his view, though, there's at least a 50/50 chance a gloomy new era--complete with re-regulation of the investment/financial system and with government a greater presence in the market-place--is in store ""once the Democrats return to the White House in 1989."" A chilling and tellingly detailed tract for the times.