The weekly Daley: At play on the brink of the fiscal cliff

By From page A6 | December 07, 2012

Now, let’s see. The so-called fiscal cliff was created when a bunch of legislators and administration people got together, could not agree on a bunch of money-related issues but did agree to enact a really painful punishment for the country — in the event they were later unable to agree to a bunch of money-related agreements.

Simplistic for sure. But how far off the mark?

If a bunch of government people can make such an agreement, why can’t they “unmake” such an agreement? Why not declare that, on second thought, the fiscal cliff will occur on March 15, 2013 instead of Jan. 2? For that matter, why not eliminate the term “fiscal cliff” from all future discussion and get along with figuring out a way to implement some revenue-raising, spending-reducing measures that will improve things for all if not most of us?

Of course, if the world really does end two weeks from today (per the Mayan Calendar), who cares about fiscal cliffs? I’ll be way more concerned with the “spiritual cliff” I’ll be on at that point. But, if the world does not end on Dec. 21, and we make it to Jan. 2, what will really happen? I’ve heard reports of calamity the likes of which we haven’t seen since Y2K. Remember the breadth and depth of calamity that day? Me too.

I’ve also heard the only thing that will happen Jan. 2 is an end to the payroll tax holiday, which doesn’t sound overly dramatic to me. The other calamities will sort of trickle in over the next few months, as I understand the timetable. I’ve also heard the “cliff” called a “step” and a “curb,” neither of which engenders a hair-on-fire reaction from me.

But, Brinksmanship, “a game of chicken,” and lots of other heavily-charged language is being thrown around by the media as well as by the administration and congress. The media uses it to fan the flames of the 24/7 news cycle. The politicians use it to fan the flames of the media and to fan the flames of their base supporters. The president’s proposal was called a “not-serious” one. The Boehner, et. al. counter-proposal was called a “non-starter.”

I would guess that there were legitimate points in each, obviously not enough, but there should have been something that could open the door — if any of them really want that door to open. Which I have my doubts about.

Personally, I wouldn’t go to the wall to save a few bucks in income taxes for someone who really doesn’t need it. Nor would I go to the wall guaranteeing that if that individual did save a few bucks, he or she would “do the right thing with it.” Like hire a few more people instead of buying that new $6 million yacht.

Likewise, preventing any changes in Medicare or Social Security or Medicaid is not a ditch I’d want to die in. In fact, I’d like nothing better than to see changes in all of them. (Here’s where I would insert one of  those :=) happy faces.)

And while I’m at it, how about that $700 billion that we “could” save in Medicare fraud and waste? The way it sounds, it’s like unless and until the president gets the deal he wants, the people who are supposed to be catching and punishing wasters and frauders aren’t going to do their jobs. That’s just crazy.

On the other hand, throwing more money into the Department of Defense on the off-chance that Zimbabwe gets a wild hair and wants to challenge us in Samoa for example, or in the event China sends its fleet of aircraft carrier (sic) to do mischief to us in say, the Virgin Islands, is equally crazy.

Something I’d like to see is the bipartisan group that came up with the whole fiscal cliff notion go on all the networks together and say something like:

“Folks. Ummm, er, well, you know about that fiscal cliff that we’re about to go over? Heh, heh. That was just a dare that came out during some tense negotiations. We don’t recall who exactly first threw it on the table, but before we knew it, it had escalated to a Dog Dare. Then even quicker than we could say ‘fiscal cliff,’ it became a Double Dog Dare. And as you know, it’s pretty hard to back down in the face of a Double Dog Dare.”

Now there’s a good start, I would say.

“And well, now we’re here to tell you that we’ve decided, bipartisan-like, to call if off. We’re sorry we caused you any inconvenience or heartburn. So, there will not be a fiscal cliff after all. There’s still a problem with our finances and our spending and whatnot, but we’re going to make nice with each other and work to come up with some reasonable solutions to those problems. Thanks for your time and consideration.”

And there’s a good middle, I would add.

Chris Daley is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Friday. 

Chris Daley

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