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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

There Is No Cliff. It's Worse.

          The beauty of the “fiscal cliff” concept is that it is so vivid; it’s evocative and it’s easy to say. We see it and we feel it. The term already has matured to cliché status, but everybody instantly knows what it means. It no longer shocks, but it still works.
          OMG, we’ve got to face this Armageddon. We’ve got to accept unprecedented horror. All of it. Right away.

          Well, almost none of that is so. Undergo a brutal yank of the mind and pause suspended – a la Wile E. Coyote – above the abyss. Then retreat shamefacedly to solid ground.
There is no cliff. Nothing so dramatic. No helpless free-fall to disaster. We’re not going to get out of it that easily. Sorry.
Instead, we’ve all – all of us -- got a painful challenge, personal as well as political. Far from a helpless tumble utterly beyond our power, we face an arduous upslope we must climb. A grinding, demanding effort.  

The party’s over.
Truth is, many of us have been living well beyond our means – as families and as a nation – for years, maybe decades. Cruising effortlessly down the credit-card/easy-mortgage highway, enjoying plentiful incentives to grab and spend. Our governments have been right there in the trough with us. Rosy billows of the good life without end, and few ripples of warning.

It’s gone. Now it’s time to pay for it all. Stripped of the false prosperity we so thoughtlessly slurped for so long, we must grimly soldier through a gritty, humiliating process.
We each have to find a solid place to set our feet as we deal with the debt, reduce the budget and find ways to bring in a few more bucks. You and me and the U.S. of A.

          Disabuse yourself of the luxury of worrying about the “fiscal cliff.” We are not going to be the victims of a national meltdown out of our control. No time to wring our hands about falling or failing. We’re going to lose some goodies we considered necessities, and we’re going to be paying some bills we thought would never come.
Not just as individuals and as members of families. We also are citizens of this country. Welcome to democracy. We’ve all talked a lot about the precious gifts it gives us. Our rights as voters and taxpayers.
Now we’re getting a lesson in the investments -- disciplined, individual, communal, patriotic – investments it demands of us to make all that other stuff possible.

Time's up. Blaming is a wasteful indulgence.  This year, we’ve had a very long and very thorough debate, however rancorous and massively stained with shameless cash and breathtaking untruth. We’ve had an election. We now know the situation, and we can see the bones of the future. 
Congress created the fiscal cliff last year in the fond hope that it could thereby avoid the tough decisions by setting up a surrogate decision-maker and establishing a stern consequence for further cowardice.
The flammable tax & spending spud was handed off to a commission tasked with producing a Solomonic solution. The commission was going to take care of it all. It was evenly populated with people whose attitudes were identical to those of the appointers. Then, incredibly, the commission arrived at an identical paralysis. Aw, jeez. 
So that same Congress now faces that same choice: Fix it, you people elected to not do nothing. 

Or not. The Congress that legislated the tough medicine can modify the doses, or water them down. Or do whatever. No matter to us. We as individual citizens and debtors can't afford any more temporizing and self-delusion. If it doesn't get fixed now, it will get worse . . . and be a nastier fix later.
We down here have run out of time. It's all ours. Buckle down, hitch up our drawers, cut the crap and pay the piper. 
We – you and I – are at a moment of great personal challenge, immense opportunity. It's our future. Let's act as if we're going to live in it. Let’s get at it. 

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