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Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Permit us to wax philosophic about transcendent topics

Published: Thursday, Sept. 3 2015 11:40 a.m. MDT

A young man walks with an American Flag at an Independence Day celebration on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Thursday, July 4, 2013, in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke, AP) A young man walks with an American Flag at an Independence Day celebration on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Thursday, July 4, 2013, in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke, AP)

Even as we have celebrated Independence Day, our nation is divided and grumpy over Washington dysfunction, immigration reform, the definition of marriage and other big issues. Thus, partly because our brains are addled by the sweltering heat, and partly because Frank likes to think deep thoughts at least once a decade, we wax philosophic about transcendent topics.

Are America's best days behind her, or does the future bring hope?

Pignanelli: "Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy." — Margaret Thatcher

I proudly support the critical objective of this newspaper in promoting civil dialogue, so I will be nice. Anyone who believes that America is destined for a dystopian future of darkness and hopelessness is (I'll refrain from saying a fool) misguided. The "American Century" was not the 20th — when we rose to superpower status midway through — but the 21st when the seeds we planted bear fruit. We are enduring a tremendous debate over immigration reform, because the world still wants to come here!

In my professional, academic, social and family activities, young people surround me. They are oftentimes self-centered, naive, too focused on technology and have strange entertainment habits (i.e.,The Kardashians, uggh!). I share the same complaints every middle-age human had about youth for 10,000 years. But I am absolutely optimistic about our country because the upcoming generations are also practical, tolerant, accepting, entrepreneurial, libertarian, hard-working and dedicated. The baby boomers and my generation are dumping horrible problems on my children and grandchildren. Fortunately, we are raising a great crop of Americans, and they will take this country into unparalleled heights of greatness.

Utah punches above its weight in many categories. Our approach to economic development, government efficiency, technological savvy, healthful lifestyle and commitment to family will be admired and increasingly emulated by other Americans. In my subjective and biased opinion, America's future success is partially driven by Utah values.

Webb: I am ultimately an optimist, but I have grave concerns that, as a nation, we are not grappling responsibly with the big, fundamental problems that threaten the future of our children and grandchildren, and that continue the path of long-term economic malaise.

A little grumpiness is justified because we have truly been through difficult times — the worst economy since the Great Depression, insurmountable deficit and budget problems, and the most dysfunctional Congress and administration that anyone can remember.

But things have been worse for this country, times when the nation's freedom and unity were precarious. We survived those times, and we will get through these difficult times. But I don't believe we will find the solutions in Washington, D.C. We will find them in the states, in the private sector, and in the integrity, strength and moral fiber of the American people.

Are recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions as cataclysmic as some would have us believe?

Pignanelli: For more than 200 years, every thoughtful American has harbored serious issues with the U.S. Supreme Court. Just the concept of nine unelected legal nerds making decisions that impact our daily lives is anathema to our inner core. Liberals and conservatives have much to hate in the recent health care reform and same-sex marriage cases. But both are compelling needed debate on constitutional fundamentals (the extent of the commerce clause and the ability of states to define marriage). These will be ugly, nasty arguments that will only strengthen our democracy.

Webb: Believe it or not, some legal scholars believe the court, overall, is moving in a more conservative direction. When Roe v. Wade was handed down 40 years ago, many people thought the battle for the sanctity of life was lost. But today, most Americans still support limits on abortion, and the debate continues.

We need to have a polite and intelligent discussion about how we protect the sanctity of the family, society's most basic unit, and the value of traditional marriage, while also acknowledging the human rights and happiness of our friends and loved ones with same-sex attraction. I believe we can do both, and the Supreme Court action compels us to move forward.

Congress suffers from its lowest ratings in history, and President Barck Obama's support is also dropping. Is Washington beyond hope in solving the nation's pressing problems?

Pignanelli: When a collective of elected officials cease their frustrating divisiveness and petty bickering and peacefully adopt a policy … democracy has ended. Washington is frustrating, but there are signs of slow resolution of issues. Immigration and tax reform have real potential.

Webb: Washington is in a deep paralytic funk, nearly comatose. It's downright discouraging.

But then a few weeks ago on a long airplane flight, I thumbed through a number of business, technology and science magazines. I was amazed at the ever-accelerating pace of scientific breakthrough in every area of life — energy, health and medicine, computing, consumer electronics, artificial intelligence, nano-technology, transportation, and on and on — and the many startups and vast entrepreneurial business activity associated with these things. It's downright exciting.

So we have a dynamic private sector wanting to explode with economic activity, and a moribund federal public sector that needs to provide the right policy framework. Washington can't seem to lead, but could it at least get out of the way?

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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