Lord knows they’ve tried to make the crisis in Washington seem exciting: We’re almost at the fiscal cliff! If we go over it, there will be automatic tax increases and draconian spending cuts! The people will lose confidence in us, and the nation will plunge into another recession!
But the more they talk, it becomes clear we’re just witnessing a tiresome rerun of the same old stalemate in which “Let’s do something!” is the starting line and “No, you make the first concession” is the finish line. Republicans won’t budge on maintaining the current tax rates, and Democrats don’t want to cut spending on anything.
What’s ironic is that to avoid the cliff – which, is, remember, revenue increases and spending cuts – everyone agrees that we need to … increase revenue and cut spending. So we avoid the cliff by going over the same cliff in a different place?
Some observers are getting tired of the whole thing, and there is a growing chorus of voices saying, “Let’s not do anything. Maybe we should go over the cliff and see what happens.”
Sure, there might be a recession, but that would be a relatively short-term pain, the thinking goes. The real danger is that Americans continue to believe they can have government as big as they want without having to pay for it. Going over the cliff might be what it takes to wake them up to reality.
We’re like addicts, in other words, who have to hit bottom and know we’re at the bottom before we can start putting the pieces back together.