Are we beginning the journey back to anything like fiscal health? Who thinks the answer is yes? There’s a pervasive sense that still, nine months into the crash, “we live in castles built on sand.” We’re not building on anything secure. Instead, and more and more, we have a series of presidential actions that seem less like proposals than non sequiturs. A new health-care program that Congress itself says will cost a trillion dollars over 10 years? A new energy program that will cost however many hundreds of billions in however many years? Running General Motors, and discussing where its plants should be, and what the interiors of the cars should look like, and shouldn’t the little cup holder be bigger to account for Starbucks-sized coffee? Wait, what if it’s a venti latte? One imagines the conversation in the car czar’s office: “You know, I’ve always wanted to see a mauve car because mauve is my favorite color, I mean to the extent it’s a color.”

There is a persistent sense of extraneous effort, of ambitions too big and yet too small, too off point, too base-pleading, too ideological, too unaware of the imperatives. And there is the depressing psychological effect of seeing government grow so much, so big, so fast. This encourages a sense that things are out of control and cannot be made better.