Las Vegas Sun

August 1, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

Making things work

Dysfunction in Congress threatens to stall economic improvement

What do you think?

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Nevada’s unemployment rate dropped to 11.7 percent in April, the lowest it has been since July 2009. That was nearly two percentage points lower than it was a year ago.

In a statement, Gov. Brian Sandoval said the state has “recorded year-after-year private sector job gains every month since early 2011, a clear sign that we are slowly but steadily working our way toward a stronger economy.”

That’s good news, but it doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet. The unemployment rate is still too high. The national average is 8.1 percent. And job growth is far from spectacular. Bill Anderson, Nevada’s chief economist, noted that part of the drop in unemployment is due to people leaving the job market.

The nation still needs help, and over the next six months, the airwaves will be filled with people talking about the economy. However, we don’t expect to see much come of the talk because of the election year and the gridlock in Washington. There seems to be little willingness to do anything before November, especially among Republicans who see a sour economy as a way to win the election.

With a Republican-controlled House, President Barack Obama is getting little help in Congress on his economic plans. So what are the plans of Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, other than to try pinning the blame on Obama? More tax cuts for the rich? Let the housing market continue to fall? Wait for things to trickle down?

Meanwhile, House Republicans have balked at working to find ways to push the economy forward. Instead of addressing the economy with any real legislation, they are setting the stage for another fight over the debt ceiling. The last time they did that the United States’ credit rating was downgraded, and that didn’t help the economy. Another fight like that will only further delay a full recovery.

It’s no wonder Congress’ approval rating is so low.

The gridlock in Congress, paced by obstructionist Republicans, is a serious problem. Some members of Congress, including Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, think the answer to that is to push a bill that would cut lawmakers’ pay if they fail to pass a budget. Some lawmakers argued this would be a great step, but it would do little toward actually pushing progress forward.

But Congress finds ways all the time to work around its own rules, not to mention the law. Last week, the House approved a plan that exceeds spending limits prescribed for the Pentagon in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

If lawmakers can do that, or work around any number of other rules, why would anyone think they wouldn’t bypass a law that would cut their pay?

The nation’s elected leaders need to stop wasting time and focus on what matters. Voters elect people to find solutions, not play games or block progress.

There’s a long time between now and the election, and Congress could take steps to improve the economy. But that would require both sides to work together and find solutions they can agree upon, a task that seems all but impossible at this point.

Of course, they should be warned, if they can’t turn things around, they can expect voters to make things happen in November. And that could lead to some newly unemployed on Capitol Hill.

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