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When politicians say “we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” it’s a good bet that they’ve already strolled into a wall or stumbled into traffic. Those elected officials are trying to provide cover for some tone-deaf decision-making.

So it goes with a U.S. House vote to decriminalize and tax marijuana at the federal level. The day may come when Congress and the president need to liberalize marijuana laws. The public has grown weary of the war on drugs, and even voters in conservative states like Missouri have legalized medical marijuana. Removing marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances could open the door to research that would one day let doctors make more informed decisions on prescribing cannabis for medical reasons.

It was impossible, however, to ignore that Friday’s House vote on marijuana came the same day that a government report showed that U.S. job growth stalled in November and was in fact the weakest since the employment recovery started six month ago. This lackluster payroll report provided a sober outlook for the U.S. economy as the coronavirus rages on and the lights from last spring’s relief act are starting to dim.

Workers, small businesses, hospitals and local governments need a second stimulus bill to withstand the pandemic’s final surge and set the stage for a sustained recovery in 2021. Everyone in Washington seems to acknowledge this — even Josh Hawley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have voiced support of direct payments to American families — but elected officials in Washington, D.C., seem unable to reach an agreement in the best interests of the country.

U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, points out that a simple vote to reauthorize $130 billion in the Paycheck Protection Program, which expired in August, would make a big difference in seeing small businesses through this stage of the crisis. That seems more than sensible, but the problem is that a reauthorization of PPP funding wouldn’t be considered an “historic” or “landmark” vote.

Those were the terms that congressional Democrats and national media used to describe Friday’s vote on marijuana decriminalization. Another modifier could be futile, given that it stands little chance of passing in the Republican-led Senate.

Meanwhile, emergency jobless benefits under last spring’s $1.8 trillion CARES Act are set to expire. Moratoriums on rent, utility payments and student loan payments are all fading away.

You can almost hear Nero’s fiddle. Americans who are worried about making ends meet must have had one question for the folks in Washington: What are they smoking?

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