The new year

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am not a big fan of the holidays. Perhaps it’s because of other tasks I have to do in my life, but nearly seven weeks out of the year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is a lot of festivity to deal with all at once. (It seems to me more like about three solid months, what with some store getting out their Christmas stuff in early October.) Meanwhile, we sometimes lose sight of other important things when we let our guard down during that period.

I thought about calling this post “back to normalcy” but then I pondered: what is normal anymore? While the holiday season masked a lot of what was going on, the fact that a lot of bad law took effect at the stroke of midnight last night wasn’t lost on me. For example, the Obamacare taxes, by and large, weren’t on the fiscal cliff table.

And about that fiscal cliff: what kind of compromise is it when one side gets practically all of what it wants while the other gets hollow promises of something happening in the future? Let’s try it this way: make $1 trillion of annual spending cuts now and eliminate Obamacare, and we’ll discuss raising taxes later. How far do you think that would fly? They’re asking conservatives to sell out and why should we? Democrats lied to both Reagan and Bush 41 about making spending cuts (remember, they were in the House majority then and generally held sway in the Senate.)

Wouldn’t it be a refreshing change to come into a year not fearing the end result but confident things will get better? I sort of sense the same feeling those Baby Boomers among us who were struggling through the Carter era had among a lot of people today who weren’t yet in the workforce back then. (You can count me in among that group, since I was only 12 when Carter was elected.) We really didn’t come out of the Carter recession until about 1984 where I lived; fortunately that was just in time for Ronald Reagan to be re-elected easily. (He even carried Lucas County, my birthplace and home of union-heavy Toledo, by a slim margin. The county in which I was living at the time, GOP stronghold Fulton County, went 73% for Reagan. By comparison, it was only 55% for Romney this time.)

Yet look at what we now think is “normal.” Is 8 percent unemployment acceptable when we had under 5 percent a half-decade ago? Economic growth at 2 percent or less? Seems like the only governmental figure growing at over 5 percent annually is the national debt, as we tack another trillion dollars annually onto a toll now exceeding fifteen trillion dollars. By my public school math, then, that’s increasing at around 6 to 7 percent every year. Is that the new norm as well?

We can – and should – do better.

On Thursday we induct the 113th Congress, which will inherit the still-warm seats of the 112th Congress which seemed to be in no rush to get out of town. Next Wednesday legislators in Maryland will begin their annual session, one which promises higher taxes on working Marylanders who have to fill up their gas tanks, make a certain amount of money, or use tobacco products. It also promises more restrictions on counties and localities who already have their hands firmly tied by Annapolis.

Freedom lovers will also face an increasing headwind in the area of Second Amendment rights as “assault weapons” have become the scapegoat of choice for other societal factors leading up to the Sandy Hook massacre. It’s nothing for certain members of Congress and other lawmakers to wish to violate the Second Amendment in the best of times, but emotions are still running high in the aftermath of the Connecticut incident. Those who are more sane tend to point out that Connecticut was already one of the more restrictive states for gun control, but law didn’t save those murdered. (Isn’t murder against the law? Didn’t seem to stop the assailant, did it?)

So call my glass half-empty right now. I’ll do what I can to restore the country to greatness, but I can’t do it alone.