This space has hinted at the vexing question of government's intrusion into the private sector. But Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger nailed it last week when he wrote:

"The struggle over health care legislation isn't just another battle between the Democratic and Republican parties. It's about which force is going to take the United States forward for the next generation: the public sector or the private sector."

And it isn't just about health care. It's cap and trade, salary czars and every other kind of czar meant to keep an eye on us.

Like the Medicare and Medicaid programs created more than 40 years ago, Mr. Henninger notes, the initiatives come with a price tag to be financed with an endless stream of new "millionaire" taxes and fees on everything from cells phones to junk food and soda pop.

"Washington and the states are now fighting each other to drain revenue out of the same private sector," he writes. The same could be said of California cities and counties whose treasuries are being raided in the farcical state budget agreement.

"These governments are becoming like people from dying planets in 'Star Trek,' foraging the galaxy for new sources of whatever life force keeps them alive," Mr. Henninger writes. "A surtax is the ultimate act of public-sector panic."

So here is a yet another memo to Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Green jobs, as Mr. Henninger agrees, are not going to save us. The Fed's Beige Book survey may see signs of a bottoming. But an upbeat business owner today is rare if not nonexistent. More likely they've just steeled themselves and their enterprises against continuing uncertainty.

Meanwhile, fortunes - some held by pillars of communities - have been lost or seriously diminished in the recession and are unlikely to ever return.

With an expansive government agenda and a private sector on its knees, the point has come, Mr. Henninger argues, to decide which side of the public-private divide will guide the future.

Brad Bollinger is the Business Journal editor in chief. He can be reached at 707-521-4251, or online at north