I'm on vacation now. But when I get back in a week, newspapers and wire services will be starting to put together their picks for the top stories of the year. It's far from the biggest story of the year, but here's my early choice for the most important on the national level:
The results of - and reaction to - President Obama's deficit reduction commission.
Far more rational and intelligent minds than mine are predicting that unless the nation takes bold and painful action, we face real disaster (read Kathleen Parker's column Tuesday for a little more on this). It is past time to address the issue, and the only way to address it is with both tax increases and spending cuts in areas we'd rather not cut - such as Social Security and Medicare.
But the lukewarm and even negative response this commission's results have been getting is rather depressing. I asked Republican 2nd District Rep. Frank LoBiondo's office last month for his reaction to some of the initial recommendations - which involved a mix of tax increases (including ending some popular deductions) and spending cuts. A spokesman said LoBiondo believes "the commission's recommendations to raise taxes given the current and near-term economic outlook are detached from reality." He said LoBiondo wants to cut spending. But he didn't mention two big cost-drivers - Social Security and Medicare.
And so it goes ... deeper in debt. Look no further than the current "compromise" emerging over the Bush-era tax cuts, which did a lot to get us into this mess. Republicans, who claim to want to address the deficit, want to extend tax cuts for the rich. Democrats say we can't afford that. Democrats want to extend unemployment benefits. Republicans say we can't afford that unless a way is found to pay for it.
The compromise being talked about? Everybody gets what they want - extending tax cuts and extending unemployment benefits. And nobody comes up with a way to pay for it.
The only way our representatives will act like adults on this issue is if their constituents demand they act like adults. The public has got to show their congressmen that they understand the seriousness of the problem and the painful solutions - and want action.
In the 2nd District, that congressman would be Frank LoBiondo.