Raise your hand if you are sick of the “Fiscal Cliff”. Okay, let me count … 1 …. 2 … OK, there are a lot of you. I guess that I shouldn’t write about the Fiscal Cliff then. You’re back at work on 2 January like I am and we have a lot of stuff to do, right?
So, how about that House vote that … no, wait, I mean how about them Vikings, get to play the Packers at Lambeau! AP is just on fire, I’ll bet they have a chance. Anything to blur away the early hours of the first day back into the swing of things and avoid talking about Congress (the logical antonym of “progress”).
Sorry, folks. I have to. The House vote has not yet taken place as I write this, but the story is probably already written. We waited all day for this to com e to a vote because it could not be voted on until it was sure it would pass. Negotiations went on all day amounted to a lot of nothing in the end. Or did they? Something is up, I am sure. Let’s think this through.
The clock is ticking down on 2012 and the “Fiscal Cliff”. The event is something like the weather – everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it. Out my front door in St Paul it is 18F on a moonless night, the stars drifting by as they would on any other night. Nothing is happening here, just as it is in Washington. But nothing means many different things at different times.
Could the nothing of Washington be any worse? We’ve only recently learned that the lack of a Farm Bill will likely double the price of milk, among other strange effects that will roll across the stillness of this Minnesota night like an approaching Alberta Clipper. If we learn one thing in the middle of a big continent it’s that it could always be worse. And yes, there is something horrible lurking in the silence of inaction – the death of the most effective anti-corruption watchdog Congress has ever had to deal with.
My friends ask me all the time about the Fiscal Cliff. The assumption is that, as a person who watches these things, I am supposed to know what is going on. I don’t, I admit it. The most reasonable thing I have heard on the negotiations came long ago from a source I can’t remember – that the staffers had more-or-less worked out a deal weeks ago, and it’s simply down to the final posturing by their bosses before something is finalized.
That’s probably over-stating it a bit, but certainly once the election was over the relative strength of the positions was known and there was little point in “negotiating” any more. Politicians in high office don’t get there by being stupid (usually). So before we head into the endgame of the year, we can look back on how the Republican position became weaker and weaker – and why they will probably wind up caving on all the most important things before this is over.
The economy added 118k jobs in November, if you go by the ADP report, or 146k jobs if you go by the noisier official number. Let’s call it 118k because we’ve consistently touted the value of the ADP report. By any measure, it was a lot more than was expected, given the landfall of hurricane Sandy at the end of October.
Now that the election is over, there is growing optimism that the economy is indeed … growing. It’s not a lot, but it’s there. And that’s where we stand as we move into the next phase of the political season – the part defined by getting down to work and making use of the mandate given by voters. That mandate is clearly defined by a divided Congress and a Democratic President who are at odds over how to either avoid the Fiscal Cliff or, perhaps, go over it.
Even if the election didn’t tell us much, the economy is. We’d be wise to listen to it.
What’s the worst that can happen? As the deadline approaches for the Fiscal Cliff later this month, a lot of people are asking this question. It’s becoming common on both the left and the right to question whether or not we should just “go over” the edge and see what happens.
No matter where it comes from, this is a dumb idea. Let’s examine why.