Bungee-jumping off the fiscal cliff

Will Berger, Contributing Writer

If you have been watching the Washington news coverage, you have probably been alerted to the apocalypse known as the “fiscal cliff.”

Don’t let the hype scare you; it’s just a combination of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that can easily be averted if our nation’s leaders demonstrate basic intelligence and 7th grade level maturity.   Unfortunately, that would be expecting too much from them.

This is not uncharacteristic of our politicians; they have stooped to similar levels of incompetence before.

During the debt-ceiling crisis of 2011, Congress realized that if the Treasury could not borrow more than its limit —the debt ceiling—the government could not make necessary expenditures.

Debates culminated in the Budget Control Act of 2011.  Three days after the act was passed into law, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the nation’s credit for the first time in history.

On Jan.  1, the Bush Tax Cuts expire, the Alternative Minimum Tax thresholds are reverted to 2000 levels, the Payroll Tax Cut will expire, emergency unemployment benefits end, $984 billion in defense and non-defense spending will be cut, and we will all be crushed in a fiery mass of ash and bone by an asteroid hurtling towards earth.

You might be saying: “How can we avoid this cluster of incompetence, stupidity and space rock?”

Well, unfortunately we can’t.

While our so-called leaders may dump out a compromise at the eleventh hour, the problem is not really the fiscal cliff, but who’s been in charge of it.

Our politicians are playing a game of chicken; they are waiting until the last minute to do anything.

Why do I sound so defeatist?  Well, it’s because we’ve seen this scenario play out before.   Congress knew that we were going to break through the debt ceiling in April 2011, soon after they passed the last part of the 2011 U.S. federal budget.

The Treasury Department predicted that the U.S.  was going to run out of cash to pay all its bills on Aug. 2, 2011.

So when did Congress reach the deal that resolved the U.S. debt ceiling crisis?

Like most students, they handed it in the night it was due, Aug. 2.  And, like anything turned in at the last minute, it received poor grades in the form of a stock market crash and a credit downgrade of the U.S. government for the first time in its history.

The best idea I’ve heard this week has been from Mr. Warren Buffet.

“I could end the deficit in 5 minutes,” Buffet told CNBC. “You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting member of Congress are ineligible for re-election.”

It would be interesting to see that get passed through Congress.