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Q&A: Why are lights left on in vacant buildings?

When President Richard Nixon was in office, the national debt was $358 billion, according to the Bureau of Public Debt. Today the national debt is $10.6 trillion.

Associated Press (1969)

When President Richard Nixon was in office, the national debt was $358 billion, according to the Bureau of Public Debt. Today the national debt is $10.6 trillion.

Lights on in empty buildings?

As companies go out of business or go bankrupt, how or why do they keep the electricity on in the buildings they stop using? Who is paying these electricity bills?

Many stores, vacant or not, leave lights on around the clock for safety reasons, particularly special emergency lights designed to illuminate an area if there's a fire.

Sometimes, the lights remain on to prevent crime and break-ins. And keeping lights on in, say, a shopping center or a mall, helps draw shoppers to neighboring stores. (A dimmed storefront can deter shoppers from venturing to a particular area, even if other shops are open.)

Other times, keeping lights on is akin to mounting a giant "For Rent" sign outside a store. That's because illuminating a site helps landlords promote the space to prospective tenants.

And in the case of a complicated bankruptcy or liquidation, sometimes the lights stay on simply because that's how they were left when the last employee walked out of the building and locked the door.

Most retailers lease their space, so a landlord typically foots the bill for the utility costs when no one is occupying the space.

Debt's growth since Nixon

What was the national debt when each president took office, starting with Richard Nixon? And what is the source?

The Bureau of Public Debt, under the authority of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, keeps monthly statements of public debt online dating to 1963. All these figures are as of the inauguration month of January, except for President Gerald Ford, who was inaugurated in August.

• President Richard Nixon, 1969: $358 billion

• President Gerald Ford, 1974: $481.7 billion

• President Jimmy Carter, 1977: $653.9 billion

• President Ronald Reagan, 1981: $934 billion

• President George H.W. Bush, 1989: $2.69 trillion

• President Bill Clinton, 1993: $4.16 trillion

• President George W. Bush, 2001: $5.7 trillion

• President Barack Obama, 2009: $10.6 trillion

Hawaiian musician identified

I recently watched a summer program called The Philanthropist and was impressed with the story line and the acting. Near the end of the episode Kosovo, a man sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow. His rendition blew me away. Could you identify the artist and tell me if he has a CD that includes the song?

That was the often-used rendition of the song by Hawaiian music legend Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo'ole. Although Iz died a decade ago, his music lives on in many CDs, including Facing Future, with the song you are looking for.

Q&A: Why are lights left on in vacant buildings? 08/31/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 31, 2009 6:37pm]
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