This “fiscal cliff” is really a fiscal wall. We have the wrong metaphor. A cliff makes us lose our purchase on solid control, and we go into free-fall, controlled only by gravity. But in fact, what will happen at the end of the year is a restoration of solid ground — the return to taxation levels that were in effect before the Bush tax cuts, for example. It’s really a solution, of sorts. The fiscal wall ends the giveaways that helped expand the deficits (recognizing, of course, that the recession also played a huge part). In a single moment, barring other legislation, the U.S. would be put on a fiscally disciplined path.
It’s just a solution that you hit at 80 miles an hour. You really need major airbaggage to survive this kind of solution. No one wants to solve the problem so brutally. It’s like — changing metaphors again — a fiscal amputation without anesthesia.
I will keep experimenting with metaphors until I drive a stake through the heart of this gol-darned cliff.
But I have a feeling people don’t want to talk about the fiscal telephone pole we’re about to drive into. They’d rather talk about, for example, Romney’s Bain tenure. Surely you’ve been following the big debate about when, exactly, Romney left Bain, officially, legally, and whether it was 1999 or 2002, and to what extent he was “running” Bain when he was its sole owner and CEO but also on leave, etc. It’s been a major source of fact-checkerage in recent days. There’s been much discussion about how Romney is reacting to the Obama camp’s Bain attacks.
This is all a legitimate political subject, since Romney has run as a “job creator,” and if his record isn’t so sublime in that regard then the voters ought to know the truth about it. Moreover, anything in a candidate’s bio is significant when he or she is seeking to be president. But in the grand scheme of things, Romney’s Bain tenure probably isn’t as important as Romney’s stated policies, or as important as his track record as governor of Massachusetts. When you dig into a candidate’s past you might find interesting stuff, but it might not be terribly relevant to future performance in the world’s most demanding job. For example, it doesn’t really matter what Obama did or didn’t do in college. Incredibly, there are people still trying to dig up dirt in Obama’s distant past — they think there’s something awful lurking in his college record — even though we now have the man’s actual, 3.5-year track record as president of the United States with which to assess his competency. (Rush Limbaugh essentially has declared Obama a Manchurian Candidate.)
Let’s hear specifics about what Obama and Romney want to do the next four years. Let’s have a debate! On television! Instead of attack ads and blog posts and Twitter snipes and calculated smears and out-of-context quotes and all the other nasty moves of modern campaigning.