We've seen in recent weeks the twin personalities of the U.S. government. One is impressive, the other deeply worrying. First, the good news: We have increasing evidence that Washington's response to the global financial collapse was effective. Last fall, the financial markets seized up, credit froze and the economy went into a nosedive. Almost every metric by which we judge the economy moved into its darkest territory since the 1930s. And this happened at the worst possible time. A lame-duck U.S. president faced an opposition party in charge of both houses of Congress. It was a recipe for paralysis, bickering and inaction.