December 30. 2012 7:19PM

New year, new ways: A hope for 2013

The year we just endured was supposed to be the year when this country finally got serious about solving the big structural problems that have prevented our economy from reaching its full potential. Or was that 2008? It's hard to remember. We went online to check, but there was this funny cat video, then some new celebrity gossip, and, well ... what were we talking about?

Anyway, at some point President Obama was going to balance the budget, halt the rise of the oceans and tuck us in after a bedtime story and a glass of warm milk every night. Or something like that. Then the Republicans were going to balance the budget, shrink the federal government and plant job-trees in every town square. The seeds would be fired with laser-guided precision from a new fleet of aircraft carriers.

So now it's 2013. The national debt exceeds $16 trillion as the government borrows more than 40 cents of every dollar it spends because doing othwerwise would "balance the budget on the backs of ..." somebody. One side is religiously devoted to feeding the sacred entitlement cow in the belief that our great-great-great-great grandchildren's lunch money is better spent putting Grandpa, Grandma, Baby Suzie, Uncle Joey, your 13th cousin twice removed, and that weird neighbor who smells funny on the dole. The other side imagines itself as Minutemen patriotically defending America's marginal tax rates at any cost.

Meanwhile, spending continues its unstoppable march to the next galaxy. Not even the Mayan apocalypse could slow it. We just hope that when it gets there, some benevolent alien race sees it, takes pity on us and teaches us an advanced alien means of controlling it. We need something new, as moving "forward" seems to mean, among other things, abandoning our ancient human method, the one we used to call "math."