America needs period of pain

The shoes Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi threw at George W. Bush had more courage and truth in them than all of America's fawning media. Al-Zaidi reminded the world that Bush, Dick Cheney and their helpers have the blood of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis on their hands -- perhaps as many as one million.

In New York, fabled investment guru Bernie Madoff is accused of bilking clients of an astounding $50 billion while well-fed federal watchdogs snoozed.

Thanks to Madoff and Wall Street bandits, tens of millions of people have lost their life savings and retirement funds, and the world financial system is on the rocks.

Wall Street's big money con men, hedge fund Houdinis, and casino capitalists made a staggering $33.3 US billion in bonuses in 2007 alone by shady financial engineering and hawking fraudulent securities. Yet they have so far escaped prosecution. They get to keep their swag and $30-million South Hampton beach houses.

Worse is coming. Chrysler and Ford will shut plants in January. GM is next. In spite of the $13.4-billion auto industry bailout announced by President Bush last Friday, many plants may never reopen. As this column has long said, the U.S. auto industry closely resembles the old Soviet Union: Economically declining, bereft of new ideas, producing unwanted products, run by dimwitted careerist bureaucrats.

America produces the wrong cars, and far too many. The bloated auto industry must downsize. It has been selling cars only thanks to the steroid of cheap, easy credit -- in effect, almost giving them away. Now that the drug is largely cut off, sales have nosedived.

The U.S. economy has been running almost entirely on credit for a decade.

The U.S. national debt is twice America's net worth. Government and business encouraged a reckless credit binge to which the nation became addicted.

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