There are several causes at work here:
The 100mph version of this is basically that since the tech-bubble burst, the Federal Reserve and Treasury have tried to impose conditions using free market operations / interest rates to basically NOT have a recession, and have a permanent period of expansion.
An economy that has no recession is like someone who never sleeps, it is a completely unsustainable situation.
Real estate prices were completely inflated - add leverage by financial institutions who are piling up millions of dollars in assets at 30:1 leverage (meaning 1 million dollars buys you 30 million) and on top of that, securitization of mortgages, basically creating a methamphetamine out of the caffeine that is a single income stream and you have a room full of propane with a 10 year old playing with your dad's zippo.
What's happening now is that capitol hill - which has a looooooooong standing relationship with wall street (particularly Goldman Sachs, who just happened to be standing as a bank holding company, with two of its biggest competitors the government just HAPPEN to allow to collapse, Lehman and Bear Stears) --- is interfering with actual market based solutions and instead of letting the banks fail and the bond holders and stock holders who assumed the risk when they purchased OWNERSHIP in those banks pay the cost, they are backstopping them using government funds.
In addition, the latest response to the Freddie/Fannie crisis is to add more fuel to the fire and relax the funding rules (!?!)
Instead they want YOU to pay for it, the tax payer. What they need to do is big sweeping tax cuts to stimulate spending - not "stimulate" anything by building roads that are contracted to companies with relationships with the government! HOw is that going to translate into greater spending and reverse the Keneysian multiplier??? Its not, its Oprah/Obama crap made to make you feel better so you don't worry about our even bigger problems - like peak oil.
Well I'm sure that sounded insane - but I assure you it's probably one of the most sober thing you have read on this subject recently.
Your television lies to you.
A sweeping tax cut would have completed the stimulus package and gotten everyone in the country on board. Who knows, that might have lead to improved consumer confidence instead of the cratering one now. That was a missed opportunity.