Ross Mackenzie

It's an hour of hope. Yet you don't seem especially hopeful about the grim gray economic scene or the ability of the new administration -- and the stimulus package -- to give it color.

Good observation. Though hope never dies, a large hunk of hope went out with the lights.

But there's a rarefied ethical atmosphere in Washington now, and surely the trillion-dollar package Congress is bestowing will make everything economically right. A new day is coming. I can see it now . . .

You've got to be kidding. If there's a changed atmosphere, why didn't President Obama withdraw his Cabinet nominations of (a) three Cabinet-equivalent nominees who didn't pay their taxes; (b) at least two nominees with revolving-door, lobbyist-politician conflicts; and (c) one nominee facing a grand jury investigation of state contracts awarded to his big campaign contributors?

Things now in D.C. look eerily like the same-ol'-same-ol' arrangement that mimic the Chicago paradigm -- and differ hardly at all from Wall Street's I'll-get-mine, I-deserve-it bonus atmosphere.

And the stimulus?

It's less economic policy intended to free up credit markets, restore confidence, and address the mortgage implosion, than social policy lobbing federal cash at every seductive leftist project in the galaxy. That's what makes congressional Democratic hearts beat pit-a-pat. And in Chicago, as a community organizer in such areas as Rose Lawn and West Pullman, that's what Obama proved so very good at doing -- depositing federal dollars into the palm of just about every "organized" resident with his hand out. There are few new jobs created, and fewer long-term economic benefits.

Are you saying the stimulus won't help?

It's unlikely to. We're in an economic cataclysm, a depression --

The experts don't call it that. They say that technically it's not a depression but a recession -- an "economic crisis." Or something.

Maybe the "experts" are beamed to a different channel. Gross Domestic Product is collapsing at the worst rate in 51 years. Consumer demand is in the tank. Ditto spending on durable goods, capital equipment, business investment, and home-building. The Dow has plunged 6,000 points in 12 months. Home sales have plummeted 45 percent in the same period. Last year 2.6 million Americans lost their jobs, as will a predicted 2 million more in 2009's first quarter alone.

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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