Is it just me, or are we all becoming fatalistic about the federal government’s capacity to negotiate in ways that protect the best interests of American taxpayers?

Gretchen Morgenson, the New York Times business columnist, reported the bad news about bailout funds spent last fall to prop up the largest banks: According to the Congressional Oversight Panel, the Bush administration received $66 worth of assets for every $100 spent. You can read Morgenson’s lament here.

Or if you want to be even angrier, check out the Times profile on the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America. Here. How do you describe a CEO who demanded a $40 million bonus even as his company was tanking? Greedy, insulated and arrogant are only some of the words that come to mind. These are folks who demanded their own personal welfare systems – with benefits that included private jets and million-dollar office renovations.

Investors and taxpayers, please note.

About the excesses of corporate America, Morgenson asks and answers, “Could shame, that long-lost American character trait, be making a comeback? Not likely.”

It will be up to government, she says, to get tough. We can hope.