Now, historically, bridges, highways, roads and public buildings have been regarded as pork. In the campaign, they were "earmarks" -- payoffs for powerful constituents, a form of political corruption that reformers like Barack and John McCain were going to end.
Now, it seems, earmarks are our salvation.
Why are governments at every level doing this?
Because government believes that the restoration of economic health requires us to act against our natural instincts in a recession, and start buying and financing new homes and cars, and get back to the malls, lest this Christmas season become a bummer for retailers.
After all, 70 percent of our gross domestic product is now based on consumption, though Americans in recent years have had a savings rate of zero.
The disconnect between the instincts of average citizens and the policies of government could not be greater. Governments want us to act prodigally, while natural instincts and inclinations are telling us to act conservatively.
Conservatism and capitalism are giving conflicting signals.
Average Americans are behaving as though in rehab, trying to kick a bad habit of spending more than they earn and borrowing more than they can pay back, while the U.S. government is suggesting that what we really need is to return to the auto showrooms and malls, and start spending again, only in radically increased dosages.
Beyond the present recession, questions arise as to whether the U.S. model is sustainable. If government spending were the remedy to recession, why, after Bush's deficits, are we in recession? And if the easy money of Ben Bernanke's Fed is the cure for what ails us, how did we get sick when Alan Greenspan's Fed was conducting a never-ending policy of easy money?
How does it stimulate the private economy to pump hundreds of billions of dollars into consumer checking and credit-card accounts, when more and more of what we consume -- from computers to cars to clothes -- isn't even produced in America anymore?
What do conservatives, few of whom have opposed the Obama plans and fewer of whom have called for repeal of Bush's big-spending social programs, believe is the alternative approach to ending the recession and creating a sustainable economy?
For the economy we have seems to be condemned to an ever-deepening and widening cycle of crises, each brought on by the cure for the previous crisis, which is always the same: more government.
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