Last year I went with a couple of friends to the Willis Tower, that would be Sears Tower to you Chicagoans who will not accept the new name. We wanted not only to go up to the observation deck, but we also wanted to walk out on The Ledge. That would be the glass boxes that have replaced some windows 103 stories and 1,353 feet above the sidewalk below. From this dizzying height, you can step outside the building and look down and all around. It is quite an amazing view. Despite the incredible safety of the 1500 pound glass panels, some people seemed afraid to step out on the Ledge and look down. It was just too scary and some preferred to take in the spectacular view at a distance and forego the unique glass box experience.
This fear is much more understandable if you are off on some mountain cliff and the drop to the valley below is as high or higher than the Sears, sorry, I mean “Willis Tower”. On a mountain or any high spot, I tend to stay back from the edge even while I see the more daring move forward. There is no place to step off onto a ledge and marvel at the view below. Like the Road Runner in our favorite cartoons, we would surely crash to the canyon floor if we stepped over the edge. You may think only a fool or a crazy person would step over the edge. Even dare-devil Nik Wallenda had a wire cable under him as he stepped out into space over Niagara Falls. The edges of cliffs and water falls and high buildings are to be respected and approached with caution.
So with that in mind I wonder why our leaders, you know, the ones we elected to keep our best interests in mind, are moving us steadily to the financial cliff. The look over the edge there is about as scary as it gets, but they continue the steady march to our downfall. Are they going to go over with us, or just push us off? I guess that remains to be seen. “What cliff is that? I don’t see the edge yet,” you may say. They do not want you to see it and that is why they produce the smoke and mirrors. We will see it soon enough, however.
The Financial Cliff, or the Fiscal Cliff as some call it, refers to the massive budget cuts and tax hikes that will go into place at the end of the year unless the parties reach an agreement. Bush-era tax cuts automatically end at the close of 2012, which will surely hurt the middle class. Then on January 1 we will usher in 100 billion dollars in automatic budget cuts, that will drag down the economy of the “public sector.” Social programs will be slashed which may cut some lifelines out there. The economy will contract in excess of 3.5 per cent. Any gains made this year will be wiped out. A “Super Committee” was formed last year from members of both parties to search for a budget agreement to avoid this mess. The Committee failed and ended with no action. I know that one is hard to believe. “This Congress took no action?” Shocking, isn’t it?
“Is this a steep cliff?” you might ask yourself. Just about every economist seems to think inaction will drive us back into a deep recession. The most respected financial advisor for the country, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, recently warned, “It is very important to say that if no action were to be taken by the fiscal authorities, the size of the fiscal cliff is such that there is, I think, absolutely no chance that the Federal Reserve could or would have any ability whatsoever to offset that effect on the economy.” Yes, he is saying he can not repair that mess by himself.
The ones charged with fixing the problem are no longer making any attempt to do it. They may never have tried anyway. What!? Perhaps they just like playing “chicken.” You know, that’s the game where two sides wait to see who chickens out first. Each side may be thinking, the other side will cave in to their program rather than have no program at all. Yet, neither side has shown any desire to compromise for the last two years which has brought us what some observers feel is the “worst congress ever.” Each party may walk steadily to the edge and watch as we all go over. Why would they do this to us? Each side has moved to the extreme and has polarized the parties, the candidates, the electorate and they want to stand their ground even as it crumbles below their feet.
No one will move until after the Presidential election as politicians are more worried about their jobs than ours. After that it will be a “lame duck” Congress, as if they are not lame enough now. They probably will not have the will to avoid the disaster then, but the triple witching hour comes on their watch. The Democrats can control the Senate and the Republicans can tie things up in the House and neither wants to be seen consorting with “the enemy.” After our long history of democracy and our desire to spread democracy around the globe, we have little democracy here when it comes to fiscal policy and the majority can only stand by in shock and awe as the Congress continues to do nothing. At cnn.com they have offered the opinion, “The alarm should concern anyone who cares about our democratic system.” That means you guys in the Congress.
- Fiscal Cliff “Deeply Destructive” to U.S. – Obama (247wallst.com)
- Bernanke Transcript: Fed Can’t Offset Fiscal Cliff Effect (forexlive.com)
- Opinion: Fed acted because Congress is lame (buzz.money.cnn.com)
- Bernanke: ‘I Don’t Think Our Tools Are That Strong’ (forbes.com)
- House passes spending bill, no action on “fiscal cliff” (cbsnews.com)
- Goldman to Clients: Get out of stocks before fiscal cliff hits (seeker401.wordpress.com)
- Recovery at risk from fiscal cliff-Bernanke (reuters.com)