The days leading up to the Fourth of July provides seemingly no end to gloomy news everywhere we look.
Nearly 23 million Americans are still struggling to find work.
The national debt is piling higher every second.
Home values have plummeted.
Millions of Americans are struggling to fill their gas tank or pay their bills.
Large wildfires rage throughout the West, including those in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
In this environment, itís difficult to generate much enthusiasm for celebrating Independence Day. The Fourth instantly brings to mind fireworks, barbecues, picnics, concerts and baseball games. While itís legal to buy fireworks, itís no longer prudent.
Each year brings more restrictions about their use and in a season like this when the fire danger is extreme, itís best to watch professional and municipal fireworks displays. Even though itís not as much fun.
Despite the spread of fireworks bans, vendors happily keep selling them. At least one segment of the economy is selling merchandise. Getting to use fireworks is another matter.
If they go unused by July 4, customers can save them for belated Fourth of July celebrations, weddings or New Yearís festivities.
Many of the issues cited above have yet to be meaningfully addressed by the people elected and sent to Washington, D.C., to solve problems. Members of Congress spend too much time worrying about winning re-election and pleasing their party elders rather than working together to find solutions.
Another taxing problem is the Republican Partyís fealty to Grover Norquist, an unelected leader of the GOP. The tax-pledge effort he began a quarter-century ago is now the defining mantra of the party: No tax increases, no matter the consequences. With the possible exception of Newt Gingrich, Norquist has done more than anybody to bring about Washingtonís political dysfunction.
Since he began, the federal debt has increased roughly eightfold.
Until the GOP capitulates and agrees to a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts, as recommended by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (co-chaired by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles), the nationís economy will continue to sputter.
The Presidential Commission created in 2010 by President Barack Obama to identify ďÖ policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long runĒ released its report on Dec. 1, 2010, but failed a vote on Dec. 3 with 11 of 18 votes in favor, with a supermajority of 14 votes needed to formally endorse the blueprint.
Since that moment Republicans have done nothing except wait for Election Day with the hope of winning both houses of Congress and the White House and pushing through their agenda of tax cuts and spending cuts.
The present situation of Republican control of the House combined with only a narrow Democratic majority in the Senate has essentially stopped any new economic stimulus and brought the threat of government shutdowns and default by breaking through the debt ceiling.
No matter how much the GOP believes control of Congress and the White House is within reach the voters historically are against one-party control. The Democrats may lose the House, but they wonít also lose the White House. It will be up to the GOP to deal rather than wait for the next presidential election.
May the next Independence Day bring us better news.
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