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Editorial: Same-sex banter aside, economy is critical issue

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama finally “affirmed” his support for the right of same-sex couples to marry.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the nation ran a budget surplus for the month of April, the first since September 2008.

Guess which will count more in November?

The social warriors will re-arm on the respective flanks of the presidential campaigns, but in the center the economy remains the overriding issue.

The April results – revenues topped spending by $59 billion – are another indication the economy continues to make grudging headway. So far in this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, the nation is running a deficit $150 billion less than that run up during the first seven months of last year. Tax receipts are increasing as individuals and businesses earn more and, at least in April, there was somewhat less spending.

April surpluses used to be the rule because income taxes are due. That the Treasury has not been cash-positive in April for the last four years underscores how badly the economy has fared.

And the $1 trillion deficit projected for the entire year illustrates how much there is yet to be done. Economic growth slowed in the first quarter, and job creation in the private sector is not running much ahead of destruction in the public sector.

The economy is evolving about as fast as the president’s attitude toward same-sex marriage and the rights of homosexual citizens generally.

In December 2010, he signed a bill ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that governed the participation of gay and lesbian members of the military. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said Thursday that morale and unit cohesiveness have been unaffected by the “outing” of gay soldiers, sailors and airmen.

Last February, Attorney General Eric Holder stepped down U.S. Department of Justice enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman: de facto evidence same-sex marriage had slipped from the federal agenda.

The president has supported the “everything but marriage” initiatives that moved gay couples to the threshold of legal matrimony.

On Wednesday, the president crossed that threshold himself, although he emphasized that he still believes marriage is a state issue.

If only the door to prosperity and responsible federal spending was so readily cleared.

Obama bypassed an opening when he ignored the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which offered a way out of the standoff between congressional Republicans and Democrats.

Republicans and certain presidential nominee Mitt Romney have rallied to a budget plan from Rep. Paul Ryan that barricades any path toward compromise.

Come November, few Americans will care whether the same-sex couple next door has a marriage license or not. They will, or should, care about whether either partner has a job, whether they are underwater on their mortgage – whether we are all in this together.


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Editorial: Washington state lawmakers scramble to keep public in the dark

State lawmakers want to create a legislative loophole in Washington’s Public Records Act. While it’s nice to see Democrats and Republicans working together for once, it’s just too bad that their agreement is that the public is the enemy. As The Spokesman-Review’s Olympia reporter Jim Camden explained Feb. 22, lawmakers could vote on a bill today responding to a court order that the people of Washington are entitled to review legislative records.