Paul Greenberg

So the Smithsonian sits there like something out of the Addams Family cartoons, trapping light and appropriations, a vast mix of the fine and vulgar, the inconsequential and the overpowering. Sometimes called The Nation's Attic, the Smithsonian's history museum certainly looks like one, a long-neglected one. An immensity of objects big and small and huge have piled up over the years -- from a magnificent steam locomotive circa 1926 to a pink Patsy Cline costume. And just about everything in between. Its national museum of American history is really more a National Warehouse of American Stuff, for history ought to have something to do with story -- an intelligible narrative. This museum doesn't have one.

All in disconnected all, the Smithsonian is about as coherent as this bill now speeding through the U.S. Senate, which also contains $4 million for the Kennedy Space Center, $3 million for research into the cause and containment of oil spills, and almost $17 billion in Community Development funds to fulfill this president's vision of an ever more statist (and ever more indebted) nation. Hurricane Sandy isn't the reason for this bill but the excuse.

You name a pet cause of the nanny-state (Amtrak, Climate Change, and who knows what else in the small print), and the odds are you'll find it in this bill -- down for millions if not billions.

Some senators have tried to stop this steamroller, but it's unlikely they'll succeed, not when so many other senators would like to take the money for their constituencies and run. Whistleblowers like John McCain and John Cornyn have tried to alert their colleagues, but the Senate as a whole is still fast asleep.

The quarterback behind this sneak play is, of course, the Hon. Charles Schumer, senior senator and nudnik from New York. He may not be the biggest spender in Washington, but he surely rates among the top dozen or two. (There are so many to choose from for that dubious honor.)

Meanwhile, the Fiscal Cliff grows higher, the national debt deeper, and innocents may still wonder how we got into such a mess. They need look no further than this Emergency "Relief" bill, which mainly relieves taxpayers of their money.

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.