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Just in case you were looking for a classic example of why things in this country sometimes look like someone was trying to recreate Wonderland, try this one: a congressional committee has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Roger Clemens, the pitcher, lied about taking steroids.

Many images come to mind when I contemplate this turn of events. One is that millennia-old picture of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Another is of those annoying people–and we all know them–who can never, ever focus on the big picture but get distracted by every cow on the side of the road and continually mistake going off on a tangent for the quality of the “journey.”

Folks, we are getting deep, deep into posterior-of-the-rat territory here (we usually call it something else in the office, but since this is a family magazine, I’ll refrain from my customary usage).

But since Congress is so entranced by going off on tangents, I suggest that if it is found that Clemens did in fact lie, they not stop until they determine whether he took the shots in the butt or the arm. Only then, my friends, can we put this burning issue to rest!

Seriously, with all the lack of ethical oversight within the hallowed halls of Congress itself, you would think that someone–anyone!–in those halls would have some sense of shame, some sense of perspective.

And again seriously, it is looking more and more like we are on the threshold, if not already through the door, of one of the worst storms to hit the U.S. economy in decades. Inflation is picking up, recession is setting in, the dollar continues its years-long swoon (the euro for the first time hit an exchange rate of $1.50) and home foreclosures are mounting by the minute.

Congress of course hasn’t stopped patting itself on the back for acting so quickly to pass the so-called economic stimulus legislation. Yet the verdict on how effective this package will be is still months away and sorely dependent on how quickly debt-ridden consumers go out and spend their stimuli.

But one of the short-term effects of this stimulus has been to give the Bush administration an excuse to do nothing else that might alleviate the desperate situation in the housing market. The ripple effect from the meltdown here has not been of the gentle ripple-in-the-pond type, but rather of waves-crashing-on-the-shore-during-a-Nor’easter type.

Just the other day President Bush threatened to veto a bill that some Senate Democrats are pushing that would allow bankruptcy court judges to change terms of a primary residence mortgage if the mortgagor were filing for bankruptcy. This is currently not allowed.

Banks and mortgage companies obviously are dead-set against this and so far have the backing of the administration. It seems almost incomprehensible but the administration is still pushing a solution that encourages lenders to voluntarily renegotiate terms with people near foreclosure.

Honestly, shouldn’t we be passed the point where we are depending on the kindness of bankers? (Sorry, Blanche.)

The president apparently (or so aides say) wants to see how the stimulus is going to work before deciding whether anything else needs to be done.

Congress needs to push past the administration’s recalcitrance and stand up for the average citizen who has found no protector in this administration.

The thought of Rome burning for another 328 days…not a picture I want to visualize.


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