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Surviving the Fiscal Cliff
By Tom Purcell
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“I’m not sure I have the energy to keep up.”
“Ah, yes, you speak of the latest self-created crisis in our government, what some refer to as the ‘fiscal cliff.’ If Congress and the president don’t agree to new terms on spending and taxes, the Budget Control Act of 2011 will automatically go into effect.”
“And then the sky will fall?”
“It won’t be pretty. A number of tax breaks, such as the Bush tax cuts from 10 years ago, will end and automatic cuts will kick in across 1,000 government programs — in particular, the defense budget and Medicare.”
“But isn’t this latest crisis a drop in the bucket when you compare it to the real spending and deficit crisis just down the road?”
“That is unfortunately correct. Even if President Obama were successful in letting the Bush tax cuts lapse for Americans making more than $250,000 a year, it would generate only about $100 billion a year in additional revenue — about one-tenth of our current budget deficit.”
“We’ve had $1 trillion deficits for four years now, with no signs of significant improvement.”
“That is unfortunately correct, too. The only way to get ourselves out of this mess is to get spending in order, relative to revenue. We need to reform our tax system, which is now a complicated mess. We need to do all we can to unleash private-sector wealth creation — because without it, we are headed for some very horrible times.”
“Which is why I don’t think I have the energy to keep up with it all. Trying to stay informed is time-consuming. It is disheartening to be outmuscled by so many voters who, despite our financial mess, voted for more spending and no clear plan on trimming entitlement programs.”
“Look, neither side is happy when it loses at the polls, but you must never give up.”
“Fair enough, but you agree that it is getting harder to keep up with all we must know to be informed voters.”
“That is a fair point. Our country has grown ever more litigious; our government, incredibly big and complex. Giant bills are voted on in Congress when most of our elected representatives have no idea what is in them.”
“I thought they had to ‘vote on them to find out what was in them.’”
“Sad, I know, but it gets worse. There are more than 50 regulatory agencies in the federal government. The regulators create rules based on their interpretation of the complex laws passed by Congress and signed by the president. The EPA is having a field day within the Obama administration — just one of many examples and an ambitious regulatory agenda.”
“You are saying that people we do NOT vote for are the ones who write and enforce the actual rules that we all must abide by?”
“That is correct. The regulators have the power to fine us or even throw us in jail.”
“That doesn’t sound so good. I hope you can understand why I am so low on energy these days. The government is somewhat out of control. Debt, spending and regulations are inhibiting growth, yet the people who understand and worry about these things are outnumbered by people who are either unaware or couldn’t care less. Didn’t the exit polls show that the debt and deficit were third on the list of voter concerns?”
“Which is why you have to speak up and engage even harder. We need to press the debate on the issues that matter. We need to make our legislators address them now. That is how a republic works.”
“I know you are right, but still, I am low on energy. I tire of the partisan nonsense surrounding the self-created fiscal cliff. All the yappers on cable television and the media talk about everything but the big, very real issues. I need to turn it all off for a while. I need to take a long nap.”
“How long?”
“Can you have someone wake me up in 2016?”
Tom Purcell, author of “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” and “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood,” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Email Tom at