News Column

Fiscal Cliff Debate Continues

Dec. 5, 2012
John Boehner

NBC's Today show spent nearly 20 minutes Tuesday morning discussing Princess Kate's recently announced pregnancy, including a report from London by a hastily dispatched reporter, before it even brought up the fiscal cliff.

The gamble on what morning-TV watchers are really interested in probably paid off. Not even Wall Street seems terribly concerned with the early gambits being made by Republicans and Democrats to avoid the looming economic calamity they manufactured to foster bipartisanship.

"It is curious that so many investors think the chances of going over the 'fiscal cliff' are so low," the Wall Street Journal's Justin Lahart said Tuesday. "It is even stranger that they don't seem to be doing anything to protect themselves in case they are wrong."

A check of the malls and Internet sales of Christmas gifts suggests consumers, too, have decided not to get too agitated over the combination of spending cuts and tax hikes that are supposed to automatically kick in next month unless Congress and the president can agree on a deficit-reduction plan.

Many apparently have decided that, while a cliff dive may be inevitable, like bungee jumping, it doesn't have to be fatal. It seems experience has taught Americans that Congress doesn't do anything until the last minute, and that its budget solutions last only long enough to grow the next fiscal crisis.

House Speaker John Boehner did finally offer an alternative to President Obama's proposal to raise tax rates for those earning more than $250,000 annually. But the Republican plan was just as vague as presidential candidate Mitt Romney's as to which tax deductions and loopholes it would close to slice the deficit. Is it any wonder people feel as if they're watching a chess game?

It's not that people don't care about falling off the fiscal cliff, but after investing so much emotion in a divisive presidential election, they are reluctant to jump right back into a fight when the antagonists are still only probing each other's vulnerability.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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