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Falling off the fiscal cliff.

Posted December 27, 2012 by Robb Zerr

After doing nothing for months on end, the federal government is rushing to assemble some kind of bill that will keep the federal government from falling off the so-called "fiscal cliff."

If you don't understand the fiscal cliff or its ramifications, don't feel as if you're alone. There are 535 people in the Capitol who don't seem to understand it either. Suffice it to say that it is a series of spending cuts that automatically kick in if the two parties can't come together and pass a spending and tax bill. If you were falling the bouncing ball all along, then you know that this is in response to the Budget Control Act of 2011, which put a bunch of automatic tax increases and spending cuts in place if Congress and the president couldn't agree by the end of 2012.
There's still a chance that this will all be ironed out in the coming days, with both sides getting none of what they asked for. The Democrats want to extend the tax cut on most Americans while letting them expire for the so-called two percent. The Republicans don't want anyone to get taxed more and want to cut spending significantly.

Dave Berry probably said it best in a quote that could have been ripped from today's headlines. "Congress, after years of stalling, finally got around to clearing the way for informal discussions that might lead to possible formal talks that could potentially produce some kind of tentative agreements." Right on the money, Dave, as the members of Congress can't seem to even agree on what to order for lunch, let alone make huge changes on either side to cut taxes or rein in spending.

Even former President George W. Bush saw that there was room for changes in spending. He once remarked, "The defense budget is more than a piggy bank for people who want to get busy beating swords into pork barrels." On second thought, maybe Congress can agree on what's for lunch – pork and plenty of it.

One would think that the recent elections would have stopped all the positioning. Elections have a way of making no one want to take any side that could possibly be perceived as a controversial one, as Brian Riedl points out: "Budgets are political documents, and this budget will likely have the goal of trying to show a declining deficit without endangering anyone's re-election prospects."

Ideally, the federal budget should be absent of special interests. Even former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once said, "The federal budget should be a statement of our values, our national morals and our priorities." We're just not sure if she was talking about our budget or that of some other country.

There's no doubt that the government will eventually have to go on a Jenny Craig level diet if they are to fix the deficit and the debt. One could argue that everyone should have listened to founding father Thomas Jefferson long ago who said: "We are endeavoring, too, to reduce the government to the practice of a rigorous economy, to avoid burdening the people, and arming the magistrate with patronage of money, which might be used to corrupt and undermine the principles of government."

Oh, Tom, where are you when we need you most? He adds, "Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms (of government) those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it to tyranny."

One hopes that the government will act and fast. But as we know, that is somewhat of an oxymoron –government acting fact. Instead, it looks as though we're in for a long ride; let's just hope that it's one that doesn't take us over a cliff.


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