Savannah Morning NewsIT’S STILL about the economy. It’s still about jobs. It’s still about hope, not gloom and doom.Yet President Obama and Congress have forgotten these things. So have congressional leaders of both political parties.While they battled toe-to-toe last week on an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, elected officials failed to notice that the U.S. economy was on the skids again. Indeed, the public slugfest between Democratic liberals and Republican tea party conservatives probably contributed to the market being spooked. Combined with long-standing concerns about the global economy, the Dow plunged 513 points last Thursday ‘” the biggest drop since 2008.Talk about getting suckered by playing political rope-a-dope.Here are a few things the president and Republicans and Democrats in Congress have missed while beating each other up.Consumer spending dropped in June for the first time since September 2009.During the first half of this year, the U.S. gross domestic product barely increased.Manufacturing activity hit a two-year low in July, and the services sector is expanding at its slowest pace in nearly one-and-a-half years.So what to do? There’s a deep split in both parties about how to cut the federal government’s debt and what this means to the overall economy. So finding common ground is essential, if only to stop the free-fall in confidence that Americans have in their elected leaders.Some liberal economists and their Democratic allies believe the best tonic is pumping more borrowed money into the economy. But the stimulus package that Congress passed in 2009 ‘” about $787 billion worth ‘” didn’t deliver the goods.Stopping the unsustainable growth in entitlement programs that claim 40 percent of federal spending, which Republicans and many Democrats want, is a must. But Congress delayed that day of reckoning to beat the deadline on raising the debt ceiling.One thing Washington can do ‘” and should have done long before now ‘” is to stop the foot-dragging on three pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.The Senate is still waiting for the Obama administration to submit the free-trade deals, which will help American exporters and thus help create jobs and stimulate the economy at home. Many European nations, as well as Canada, already have these agreements. So every day that the United States is on the sidelines, that’s another day that America loses business to its competitors.Unfortunately, too many leaders in both parties would rather beat on one another than work to get the economy back on track.This rope-a-doping must end.