What's a couple of billion bucks? That's all you need to hear. That's all you need to know.

A Democratic supporter of the “cash for clunkers” program, arguing for its extension.

After all, it has been an unqualified success. So many customers, at so many dealerships, so soon, that the government plum ran out of dough...so fast.

So, more dough, fast. Because, as he pointed out, we're only talking a couple of billion bucks.

And I guess he had a point. What is a couple of billion compared to maybe a couple of trillion for health care? Or close to a trillion for stimulus? Or hundreds of billions for the banks? And close to that for the auto companies?

Chump change, if you think about, in the scheme of things.

A mere rounding error compared to those sums. He's right. But that really doesn't make throwing more money at a program right. Even if this program is cheaper.

Because we have slipped mightily as a nation when we don't even blink when we're talking billions in this nation. My friends, a billion anything is still a lot. Blowing through a billion anything in days is still remarkable. And asking for a billion or two billion more of anything is still galling.

Here's why. When you look at that as pocket change, you've changed, we've changed, our country has changed. Because the cheapest federal program carries lasting federal baggage. They cost us more than money. They cost us our very independence.

They are the means by which we are bought off and paid. To programs that trigger our Pavlovian response to buy. And without which we increasingly will not buy.

They know it.

Because they know us. Just like they know that we know a billion bucks ain't what it used to be. That these days it's chump change. Problem is, it's our chump change. So you could say they're chumps for trying it. Or we're bigger chumps for letting them get away with it.

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