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Gridlock in Washington undermines state of the union

Published: Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

Nearly seven years after the onset of the Big Recession, the State of the Union is improving on most fronts. The state of the federal government? Not so much.

The two are not the same and should not be confused.

Despite a sluggish recovery, the economy is doing far better than it was when President Barack Obama became chief executive five years ago. Housing is in recovery, jobs are (somewhat) easier to find and consumer confidence has rebounded. We’re not out of the woods, but we’ve come a long way.

That is due in no small measure to the stimulus program that the president proposed and Congress enacted in 2009, which worked the way it was supposed to by pumping jobs and money into a flat economy. But above all, it is a testament to the vitality of the public sector and the business community, which made the necessary adjustments to ensure they could weather the storm.

But it’s doubtful that any such “big ticket” item could win approval these days. Obama and Congress remain at loggerheads on most of the important issues of our time, and there is little hope of a breakthrough, at least until the next election.

The president’s agenda of diminished ambitions and his vow to take unilateral action where he can reflect the state of gridlock in the nation’s capital. That will only get him so far, though. A federal government without an active, energized Congress is not an option in our system of government.

Obama’s supporters blame Republicans in Congress for the futility inside the Beltway. They’re partly right.

But Obama can’t get off the hook entirely. The president that the nation saw Tuesday night was eloquent, passionate and occasionally humorous.

But when it comes to working with a recalcitrant Congress and the hard work of legislative engineering, the magic apparently vanishes. Even members of his own party have complained about his performance when it comes to dealing with Congress.

The result is a limited vision that fails to fix fundamental problems requiring urgent attention from both lawmakers and the president.

– The Miami Herald

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