The Fiscal Cliff: Why American Politics is Completely, Tragically, Indefensibly Fucking Crazy

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There is no better story to explain the true insanity of American politics than the fiscal cliff.

The Media is Ignorant and it’s Making Everyone Else Ignorant Too

An explanation of the strangeness of this whole debate has to start with pointing out that the name itself is wrong.  It’s the product of the 24 hour news cycle which has produced a shockingly ignorant TV press corps that cannot possibly go several months without running around screaming about the latest invented apocalyptic crisis.  There is no “cliff” of economic doom we’re about to plunge over on January 1st like Wiley Coyote.  It’s really a gradual slope.

But slowly going down that slope would still be bad.  Why?  Basic economics says governments are supposed to run deficits during economic downturns.  They borrow rather than raising taxes to spend money on things like bridges, schools, the military, creating jobs for construction workers, teachers, and death-machine manufacturers.  The “fiscal cliff” is the large increase in taxes and cuts in spending scheduled to happen in 2013, which could put us back into recession.

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Yet the media has created the perception among people that this is some kind of “debt crisis”, and we therefore need take this moment to deal with our national debt.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  Going over the fiscal cliff will almost completely eliminate the deficit (graph on right).  Yes, that’s right.  We could literally lock Congress in a big cage for the next year and the deficit would pretty much go away.  But that’s a bad thing, because it would tank the economy.

The Tea Party is Seriously Insane

So why aren’t the Tea Party crazies who are so obsessed with reducing the deficit cheering about the fiscal cliff?

If, as they’ve bizarrely insisted, the deficit under Obama is what’s been holding back job growth, shouldn’t the fiscal cliff be the Biggest Stimulus Ever?

In fact, a large part of the fiscal cliff is because of the automatic trigger budget cuts that they demanded when they held the debt ceiling hostage and almost caused the US to default.

So did they stop believing in austerity and suddenly become true believers in Keynesian economics?  No, apparently they don’t really believe anything and are just fucking crazy and angry about anything Obama does.

Congress Either Doesn’t Know or Doesn’t Care What Regular People Want

The truth is, right or left, no one wants to go over the cliff.  In fact, normal people (read: not members of Congress) are mostly in agreement.  A wide majority supports allowing the Bush tax cuts for the rich to expire on schedule.  And although Republicans like spending cuts in theory, when you ask them about the specific cuts their congressional representatives are talking about, they no longer support them.

The fiscal debate has featured all kinds of ridiculous antics from Congress.  We may have officially entered the Twilight Zone, when Senate Minority Leader McConnell (who has led more filibusters than anyone in history) I shit you not, filibustered his own  bill.

But at a deeper level, this shows who Congress is really accountable to.  Even though Congress agrees on tax rates for 98% of Americans, the debate is stuck because House Republicans are holding the whole thing hostage over tax cuts for the richest 2%.  And although the fiscal cliff cuts to the military are much more widely supported than cuts to Medicare, Congress is stumbling over themselves to protect the defense budget and fairly willing to throw grandma under the bus.  Why?  Because death-machine manufacturers have really good lobbyists and old poor people don’t.

Not Just the Tea Party, but the Republican Party in General is Seriously Insane

Clearly a significant portion of our country has become utterly unhinged from reality.  Not only were they convinced there was no way Obama could win, they still have trouble believing it even after the election is over.  

You don’t get to lose elections and then make demands.  Especially because Obama can get what he wants by doing nothing, letting all the tax cuts expire on January 1st, then asking Congress to vote for a tax cut just for the lower 98%, which they’ll all vote for.

Truth is, people are tired of the GOP’s shit.  That’s why Obama won.  That’s why in polls Americans overwhelmingly say they will blame Republicans in Congress if the fiscal cliff happens.

But here’s the best part.  If they don’t get their way, Republicans are threatening to start a whole new hostage situation over the debt ceiling.  The only thing that could make this more crazy is if as a compromise for raising the debt ceiling, Republicans demand another Supercommittee, which fails again, leading to automatic budget cuts that become another fiscal cliff that needs to be averted.

Maybe we’ll just be trapped in an infinite loop until we die.

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