A new year offers the opportunity of a fresh start. People all across the world resolve to change their lives for the better, whether that means working harder, being kinder or losing weight. Unfortunately, most of these resolutions fade over time, and, in the long run, nothing much changes.

Our elected leaders in Washington don't seem to be following this pattern, and that's not a good thing. Rather than make empty resolutions and then break them after a short period of productivity, they seem to be making no effort to change at all.

Despite an election that delivered a muddle at best, both sides continue to demonize the opposition and insist that compromise is a dirty word. The result is a stalemate that threatens to stifle our feeble economic recovery and hurl the nation back into recession. Much of the media focuses on which party will get the blame, while the arduous task of actually solving the country's problems is all but ignored.

That's a shame, because these problems aren't going away.

Unemployment remains stubbornly high, and more and more people continue to drop out of the workforce altogether. The number of our fellow citizens who depend on government assistance for their basic survival needs continues to rise. And Washington continues to pay its bills with money it doesn't have, all the while making promises to its citizens that it will provide future benefits it can't possibly afford. Overseas, we face an increasingly dangerous and unstable world, where far too many people either envy or hate us.

And when the bottom eventually falls out and the whole ship sinks, the American people aren't going to be mollified by partisan protestations that it was all the other guy's fault.

Blame isn't leadership. Neither party has a monopoly on truth, and even when proposed solutions differ, it should be obvious to all that politicians of every stripe ultimately have the country's best interests at heart. How different would the nation be if our leaders believed their opponents were bargaining with them in good faith? What if Congress discovered that voters preferred compromise to ideological purity?

During every campaign, candidates promise an end to politics as usual. But somehow, as they take office this year, politics as usual is always what we seem to end up getting.

Wouldn't now be a good time to recognize how ridiculous that is and resolve to change it?