In Our View: Congress, Don't Let us Down

Local economy showing early signs of recovery; no distractions needed

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Pardon us for being so provincial (it's in our editorial DNA), but here's a new incentive for Congress to get its act together:Do it for Clark County!

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, might not consider that mantra to be so persuasive inside the Beltway, but we're willing to try even the most self-centered strategy to nudge federal lawmakers off the dime.

Our local economy is looking up in a couple of ways, and around these parts, we don't need no stinkin' debt ceiling debates or fiscal cliff theatrics getting in our way.

Notice the nonpartisan nature of what's been happening around here lately. Both Republicans and Democrats (we boldly presume) drove that 6.8 increase in retail sales during the third quarter of 2012, compared with last year's third quarter. It's also true that both conservatives and liberals triggered a 65.8 percent increase throughout 2012 in new-home permits in Clark County, stacked up against the 2011 residential construction.

So, get a clue, Congress. If we can get our financial act together -- working together -- way out here in Southwest Washington, why can't you fulfill your increasingly urgent budgetary obligations back there on The Hill?

Don't give us that old song and dance about the vast difficulties of fiddling with federal fiscal stuff. Baloney! We know all about tough times here in our community. Back in 2009, we were limping along with a measly $992.8 million in third-quarter taxable retail sales. But in the third quarter of 2012, we pried $1.18 billion out of our pockets here in Clark County.

Much of that spending growth came in auto sales, auto parts and auto repairs, which showed a 21.8 percent boost. Seems that recession forced us to keep our vehicles a year or two longer than the old standard of four to five years, and now all of that pent-up demand has giddy car dealers opening their doors wide. Statewide, there was a 15.7 increase in auto sales in the third quarter over that same period in 2011.

Retail sales in stores increased 8.1 percent locally, with construction rising 2.8 percent.

That same forced principle of holding onto stuff longer during the recession also created pent-up demand in new-home sales, but now we're ready to roll. Last year's 577 permits looked mighty fine after a mere 348 in 2011, but we've still got a long way to go in matching the peak of 2,157 new-home permits back in 2003.

If Congress can't bring itself to focus on Clark County, there are plenty of encouraging national incentives. Private sector employers added 155,000 jobs nationally last month. With both parties in Congress agreeing that the recovery must be rooted in the private sector, it's abundantly clear that the next few months will be no time for sequestration showdowns or snippy threats to shut down the government. Regarding the public sector, there's this noteworthy trend: According to the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government at the University of Albany, 60 months after the 2007 recession, state government employment is down 1.3 percent. But 60 months after the 2001 recession, it was up 4.3 percent, and 60 months after the 1973 recession, it was up 18.3 percent, the Los Angeles Times reports.

So the question remains: How interested -- really -- is the 113th Congress in collaborating on economic solutions? We're waiting hopefully for the answer, especially here in Clark County.