Paul Greenberg

The price of this new president's bailout plan for the whole American economy keeps changing (what's a few hundred billion between friends?) but the high-pressure sales job doesn't.

In the greatest economic challenge of the last century and maybe in American history, in the midst of a challenge similar to today's but on a far greater scale and with far fewer means available to meet it, Franklin D. Roosevelt told the American people that we had nothing to fear but fear itself. This president tells us to be afraid, to be very afraid, because the only alternative to his spending plans is "a catastrophe."

The size and variety of all the spending programs in this bill would make a drunken sailor look like a fiscal conservative. But the president's message is simple: Sign on the dotted line, and now, or All Is Lost.

Barack Obama brings to mind the used car salesman who warns that, if we dare step off the lot, if we don't ACT NOW to grab this souped-up Super Eight with all the trimmings, catastrophe will strike.

Good judgments are seldom hasty judgments, but now the American people are being told to accept this vast, pork-layered "stimulus" bill now. Yet the voice of experience within us all warns: Spend in haste, repent at leisure.

There may be times when action -- and action now -- is needed, whatever the cost, as in war or when the whole international banking system was coming unraveled, as it was last September. But look at some of the boondoggles suggested as this bill took shape: a new fitness center in Albuquerque; a great big parking garage at the Orange Bowl in Miami; still another music hall of fame, this one in Florissant, Mo. Not to mention a Minor League Baseball Hall of Fame at Durham, N.C. (Go, Durham Bulls!)

Pick your own favorite slice of pork in this smorgasbord of spending. This "stimulus" package was larded with so many bridges to nowhere or the equivalent thereof that it would make the old, secretive system of earmarking congressional budgets look comparatively open and deliberate. To paraphrase the late great governor of Arkansas and natural poet Frank White, this bill opens a whole box of Pandoras.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.