Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

January 11, 2013

New year begins with blame and a made-up 'fiscal cliff'

I'm here to wish everybody a Happy New Year.

But I have to emphasize that it is a wish, not an expectation. In fact, while I am usually cautiously pessimistic, I am throwing caution to the wind this time, and admitting that I think my wish is pretty much a pipe dream.

I think we are in for a very unlucky 2013.

The frenzy, of course, is the agreement recently reached by Congress and President Obama to prevent us from plunging off the alleged "fiscal cliff" into economic oblivion. Once they did that, we were told by numerous TV talking heads, we can all ride off into a secure, prosperous new year. If they hadn't, we'd have done our own version of the Mayans' end of the world.

But that is mostly a manufactured frenzy. If either side seriously thought the economy would collapse over a cliff that is more like a curb, there would have been serious negotiation going on. Instead, there was mainly posturing and spin.

The hard work was not about how to address the real fiscal cliff facing the coming American generations, but about trying to convince the country who to blame if Jan. 1 arrived and a scheduled combination of tax increases and spending cuts took effect - a deadline that Congress and the president created through a previous agreement.

The thing is, we really do have a crisis. It's just not the kind of crisis that eating the rich is going to fix.

But nobody wants to talk about that - not when the blame game is so much more fun and such an easy distraction. Democrats are generally better at it. And, sure enough, most voters seemed to think that if the GOP would just go along with the president - and agree to tax the fat cats, bankers, corporate jet owners, and everybody else who didn't realize that, "at some point you've made enough money (and the rest should go to the government)" - our deficits and debt would melt away without any need for limits in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, and endless unemployment insurance.

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