Salena Zito

If you placed a bet during the presidential campaign season on whether Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were serious about hitting the ground running when they took over Washington, you probably have extra change in your pocket.

Whether it is George Bush with Iraq or Obama with the economy, politicians always have a bias for action. Obama's action today is economic recovery -- on speed.

The rush by the White House and Congress to "fix" things has been mind-numbing. But can't anyone pause long enough to make sure that what's being signed into law really is the right thing?

In 1920, before the Great Depression hit, our country was moving from an agricultural economy into an industrial economy. Today, we are an information/service economy, which means the things we create are not necessarily concrete, as crops and machines were.

"I think that fact alone has ramifications for a government stimulus," says Lara Brown, a political scientist at Villanova University.

Brown's concern is how exactly the stimulus money will "filter" into our less-than-concrete system.

"If we borrow money from China to give money back to individuals to spend (in the form of tax cuts or tax credits), will their spending eventually go back to China because they use it to make purchases at stores such as Wal-Mart?" she asks.

Which begs a follow-up question: How would that stimulate job growth here?

The current stimulus plan lacks ambition, innovation and creativity, Brown says. Government shouldn't create jobs; it should create markets that spur private companies to create jobs. "The government's job is to speed up the process known as 'creative destruction,' " she says.

Much of the money in the stimulus plan goes to states to help balance their budgets or to programs created long ago -- some successful (such as Pell grants) and some controversial (sexually transmitted disease prevention) -- but not many that are really "new" or experimental.

"Too much for too little" is Brown's assessment of the stimulus package.

You need a GPS system to figure the path this huge outlay of funds will take to excite economic activity for the next expansionary period.

One overlooked concern is the considerable lack of confidence our elected officials have in the energy and creativity of Americans to invent or innovate.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.