Purcell: Surviving the Winter Blues

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Boy, it's cold outside.

It's so cold, politicians are picking their own pockets ... people are flocking inside the U.S. Capitol for the blustery hot air... relations between President Obama and Republicans have been upgraded from chilly to lukewarm.

The cold, dreary weather makes me feel blue this time every year. Though, truth be told, my symptoms have worsened every winter since 2009 — when Democrats took control of the White House and Congress and began spending money like teenagers with somebody else's credit card.

Weeks after President Obama had campaigned on hope and change, he signed an $830 billion "stimulus" into law under the guise that it would have a significant impact on reducing the unemployment rate by funding "shovel-ready" jobs.

Well, it didn't do much to spur job growth, but it shoveled plenty of you know what. We borrowed nearly $1 trillion to pay off Obama's supporters by funding some awfully nutty projects.

According to The Wall Street Journal, "$783,000 was spent on a study of why young people consume malt liquor and marijuana. Some $92,000 went to the Army Corps of Engineers for costumes for mascots like Bobber the Water Safety Dog. And $219,000 funded a study of college 'hookups.'"

What's worse is that the spending surge, says The Journal, "helped drive federal outlays from less than $3 trillion in 2008 to $3.5 trillion in 2009, where federal spending has roughly remained ever since."

That's one of the reasons federal debt will have doubled to nearly $20 trillion during President Obama's eight years presiding over the country.

So affected have I been by our spending and debt, I just want to sit in front of the fireplace binge eating Hostess Ho Hos and sipping whiskey-saturated hot cocoa.

The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 was supposed to prevent another financial collapse. But its rigorous rules and regulations have had unintended consequences on small, community banks that America's small business rely on.

To wit: Many community banks and credit unions are unable to afford the increased compliance costs — the need to hire more staff to demonstrate compliance with onerous regulations — but the big commercial banks can and are winning a growing share of the loan business.

This is having a direct negative impact on entrepreneurs. Community banks are better able to evaluate "soft risk" at the local level. For instance, smaller banks may evaluate entrepreneurs on their past dealings and integrity when reviewing loan applications — something national chains aren't likely to do.

That means startups are facing increased difficulty obtaining credit. Which partly explains why American entrepreneurship is in decline for the first time since the U.S. government started measuring it — and why, according to Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, "the U.S. ranks 12th among developed nations in terms of business startup activity."

It makes me so depressed, it makes me want to sit in an outdoor hot tub as I drink several pints of dark, Irish brew.

In more recent years, my winter depression has been exacerbated by the worst economic expansion since World War II; the massive increases in my insurance premium because of ObamaCare; the unbelievable mess that our failed leadership is causing in the Middle East; the worry that as baby boomers retire in giant numbers in the next 10 years, our entitlement costs are going to explode; and the overwhelming sense that our country is adrift with nobody at the controls.

Yeah, the cold, dreary weather is really getting me down this year. It makes me so depressed I want to pull my covers over my head and pretend that our problems don't exist — just as our political leaders are doing in Washington.

Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Sean McClanahan Mysteries," available at Amazon.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc


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