As the media focuses on Beyoncé’s lip syncing and First Lady Michelle Obama’s bangs, the national unemployment rate now stands at 7.8 percent—where it was when Obama first took office in 2009. Even rosy forecasts don’t see the unemployment rate dropping to pre-recession levels until 2016 at the very earliest. Millions of workers have fled the job market, so a return to George W. Bush-era work force numbers would take years under the best economic circumstances.

Circumstances we aren’t enjoying. The Obama economy is only expected to grow at a meager 1 percent to 2 percent rate for the foreseeable future. Fannie Mae, the mortgage-finance company, recently called the sluggish pace of the recovery the “new normal.” Setting aside the real-life consequences of rotten growth, it also means weak revenue will persist, and without any genuine spending or tax reform in our future, the dynamics that have dominated Washington will continue to do so.