The Times writes of a deal in Congress on the Bush tax cuts that "assures the public that Washington can put its fiscal house in order."
Therein lies the problem. People think of the government as separate from the governed — the people who pay taxes and feed the machine. It is not Washington's fiscal house; it is the people's fiscal house.
It is incumbent on "the people" to understand the consequences of their demands for government support and that it is "we the people" who take the money out of our left pocket and put it in our right pocket. Some programs are good and some are not, depending on the values they encourage and represent.