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Published: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2004 at 11:45 p.m.

Do as we do

It turns out that Washington's borrow and spend mentality comes close to being a national ethic.

This past fall, consumer debt hit a record high of $1.98 trillion - and that was before the Christmas spending orgy. That's a per-household debt of $18,700.

"The Depression generation is passing on, and we're losing their values," Howard Dvorkin, president of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, recently told The Associated Press.

"We've got an entire generation that doesn't know anything about thrift and careful spending. It's tearing the fabric that made this country great."

It's the central dilemma of our time: Unbridled consumerism is the engine that propels America's economy. But to keep that engine roaring, Americans are borrowing their way into hopeless indebtedness.

Economist call the ballooning consumer debt a ticking time bomb - and it's a question of whether, not when, that bomb will explode.

Jumping ship

Under the Bush administration, the mission of the Environmental Protection Agency has become less about enforcing America's anti-pollution laws than about accommodating the polluters who contribute heavily to political campaigns.

So it should surprise no one that EPA employees are beginning to bail out. In the wake of the administration's decision to end investigations against power plants suspected of violating the Clean Air Act, three senior EPA officials recently resigned.

"The rug was pulled out from under us," one of those ex-employees, Rich Blondi, associate director of the air enforcement division, told The New York Times.

Also resigning were enforcement officials J.P. Suarez and Bruce Buckhelt. Such resignations will, of course, bother the politicians and polluters not at all.

But Americans who care about the quality of the air they breath and the water they drink should be concerned.

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