Paul Greenberg

Who said, "East is East and West is West, and ne'er the twain shall meet?"

Wait, wait, don't tell me; let me Google it up on my own and call it, in the grand tradition of Tom Lehrer's ditty about Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky ... Research!

Ah, yes, here 'tis: Kipling. Of course.

But no matter what that rip-roaring versifier contended -- Orwell called Kipling the best of the bad poets -- this country seems determined to follow the same economic policies that Japan did back in the '90s. And achieve the same gosh-awful result: a lost decade.

This still new administration just passed its first, $787 billion spending bill to stimulate the economy. Small potatoes compared to Japan's great (and failed) experiment in the 1990s. During that decade the Japanese adopted ten (10) stimulus packages worth a grand total of $1.4 trillion in today's U.S. dollars, including $500 billion spent just on public works from 1992 to 1998.

The result: Japan's unemployment rate doubled. Its economy mainly just stood still, slowly sinking in the East. If just spending money on the same old failed enterprises could end a recession, Japan should have been booming. It wasn't. Quite the opposite. Welcome to the Lost Decade.

Japanese politicians thought they could go on subsidizing their mismanaged banks and industries indefinitely. The result: They kept their country's economic slide going indefinitely.

Now the masterminds in Washington are making the same super-sized mistake when it comes to the failing and flailing American auto industry.

This time General Motors and Chrysler have asked for another $21.6 billion from the taxpayers on top of $17.4 billion they got just last December. Even then it was clear they would be back soon enough with their hands out.

Can anybody be surprised that the last bailout didn't work? And will anybody be surprised when this one doesn't?

At this point, the prospect is for bailouts as far as the eye and accountants can see.

Ah, but if these automotive giants don't get their billions, they warn, they'll go bankrupt.

Is that a threat or a promise? These outfits have needed to be reorganized, re-capitalized, and generally revitalized for years now. Bankruptcy would be the most direct way to do it.

Call it re-organization, merger, acquisition or any other name that might soften the blow, but only clear, definite action can free these debt-bound giants from the immense hole they've dug for themselves. And want to go on digging.

But instead, they're holding themselves for ransom. ("Give us the money or we'll go broke!")

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.