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An over-'fed' mind - Tom Purcell

I don't recall exactly when it began, but I wish it would stop: I think about the federal government all the time now. There is no way to avoid it.

Every time I turn on the tube, President Obama is on -- or there are people talking about what he is trying to do.

Every time I go to a cookout or party, the conversation always turns to politics and worries about what our political class is trying to do.

Every time I do anything -- fill up at a gas station or flush a commode -- the federal government is shadowing me; its policies affect everything from the price of gasoline to how much water a commode can use.

Sure, I know we live in a republic. I know we must pay attention and actively direct the actions of our politicians. But I can't remember the activities in Washington ever taking up so much of my life.

I am nostalgic for the '80s in that regard. I was in my 20s then. I had a decent job, a new car, an active social life. There were times I went whole weeks not thinking about the federal government.

In the early '90s the first war in Iraq consumed my attention. But pretty soon, there was gridlock in Washington, which left me free to not worry about the federal government for days at a time.

In the mid-'90s, when I was in my 30s, there were a few periods in which the federal government consumed me. Bill and Hillary attempted a government takeover of the health-care system then and, boy, did Americans tune in.

Americans didn't like what they were seeing, so they voted Democrats out of Congress in droves. They turned to Republicans, who, for a spell, believed in small government and fiscal restraint. Our divided government soon produced some good policies and an annual surplus, and I recall going whole weeks in the '90s not thinking much about Washington.

Since then, there have been some trying and controversial times that demanded our attention. The vote-recount fiasco during the 2000 election was a doozy and kept me up nights.

The tragedy of 9/11 is still overpowering to me. I lived in the Washington area at the time. I stood on the 10th floor of an office building and watched smoke billow into the sky as the Pentagon burned 10 miles away.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq gave our country many sleepless nights and both consumed me. Now, the situation in Afghanistan is a source of worry all over again.

In more recent years, we suffered the tech-stock crash, the housing bubble, the housing collapse, the stock market collapse, the meltdown of our financial system and a nasty recession. To be sure, such issues focused lots of attention on Washington.

When the new administration came to town last January, many people -- even folks who voted against Obama -- were hoping he'd give us a fresh start and take a reasonable, logical, thinking man's approach to resolving our economic woes. That's the man he portrayed himself to be during the campaign. But he's been governing as a different fellow so far.

As many Americans are worried about the rising unemployment numbers and the sluggish economy, Obama's preoccupation is health care?

Worse, he's made it fairly clear that his intent is to transform health care through government might into something many of us will not recognize -- he doesn't appear to be interested in many creative ideas that can fix what is broken without breaking what works.

Despite sinking poll numbers, he appears determined to push this dog through -- even though it would add billions to the massive debt and deficits we are already unable to afford.

That is why I and millions of other Americans are forced to think and worry about Washington and the federal government -- and think of ways to thwart the spending madness.

All I know is this: I dream of a future in which I can get through a whole day not thinking about the federal government. Not even once.

Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.