我的意思是，看看周围的情况。自从金融危机爆发以来，政府做出的唯一真正的改变还是由恐慌引起的。（当然美联储不断努力促进经济复苏的行动除外，虽然它的一些行动也可能是因为受误导而祭出的。）在2008年9月28日，美国国会下议院驳回了不良资产救助计划（Troubled Asset Relief Program），导致道指暴跌778点，这才使下议院吓得不得不通过这个后来在恢复信心和维护金融系统稳定方面起到关键作用的计划。
以预算赤字为例，这一数额正在急速缩减。许多民主党人宣称胜利，说一切都走向正确的方向，没必要再减少社会保障、联邦医疗保险（Medicare）和医疗补助（Medicaid）计划的预算增长，一切都在掌握之中。但如果去看无党派立场的国会预算办公室（Congressional Budget Office）最近的分析，你就会发现从长远来说，美国还远未走出困境。
Almost a century ago Thomas Marshall, Woodrow Wilson's Vice President, got tired of listening to senators blather on about the nation's needs and uttered the words that made him immortal: "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar." Today, with 24/7 blathering as our national political pastime, let me adapt Marshall's 1917 remark: What this country needs to get its act together is a good five-alarm financial crisis.
I mean, look around. Except for the Federal Reserve, which has consistently tried to help the economy, misguided though some of its actions may be, about the only real changes our government has made since the onset of the financial crisis were induced by fear. The Troubled Asset Relief Program, which played a vital role in restoring confidence and stability to the financial system, was passed only because the House's rejection of it on Sept. 28, 2008, set off a 778-point plummet in the Dow. That scared the House into reversing itself.
The only parts of the budget sequester -- an exercise in economic idiocy -- that have been modified are the FAA's cutbacks that caused air-travel delays bad enough to scare politicians into action and the food inspectors who were rescued after the meat and poultry industry spoke out in support of them. The sequester, remember, was a doomsday device created to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis in 2011, on the assumption that sequestration was so stupid and damaging that people would do anything to keep it at bay. Yet here it is.
Now, for the third time in two years, we're dealing with a debt-ceiling drama. The previous two times Republicans played this game -- the summer of 2011 and year-end 2012 -- they damaged the country's financial credibility for no discernible gain to themselves. Why they think the third time will be the charm is beyond me. I blame the Republicans (my former party) more than I blame the Democrats (my previous former party) for our national gridlock. But the Democrats are no prizes either.
Take the budget deficit, which is shrinking rapidly. Many Democrats are declaring victory, saying that everything is heading in the right direction; there's no need to cut the growth of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; it's all under control. But if you read the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's recent analysis, you see that everything is far from fine for the long term.
Part of the deficit decline comes from the higher tax rates that went into effect this year, and part from the economy's growth. But a good part of the shrinkage is from one-time items that will disappear, such as an increase in this year's income-tax collections because companies accelerated some 2013 dividends and bonuses into last year so recipients could avoid the Jan. 1 tax increases. Another factor is the lower-than-previously-projected interest rates on the national debt. But they won't last indefinitely, because the Fed has already begun warning markets of future rate increases.