31 December 2012
Racing toward a cartoon cliff
From what I hear, the government will go off the dreaded fiscal cliff at midnight. Today's deals won't get done in time for the House of Representatives to vote on them until tomorrow. The delay probably also gives Speaker Boehner time to twist Tea Party arms, since the deal reported means more tax increases than spending cuts. Boehner's Speakership itself may be on the line; his prestige in the wider political world certainly is. Some Democrats are supposedly unhappy because they won't be reaching deeper into the pockets of the $250,000 earners as the unhappy ones wanted. That's called compromise. You can use the same word to describe Republicans getting less cuts than they wanted. We should expect many partisans to grumble, but the concept of the cliff may have convinced ordinary observers of the need for broader considerations than party gain or ideological soundness. Yet the cliff, as a metaphor, lacks a certain gravity. It seems that even after their feet leave land, Senators will be able to delay the sequester, the sequence of automatic spending cuts that waited at the bottom of the cliff. This cliff appears to be the kind of cliff we see in cartoons -- or else our legislators are like those cartoon characters who race blindly off a cliff and keep going straight ahead until they realize there's no ground under them anymore. At that point, after a poignant pause, down they go -- but sometimes they can race back to the cliff and cling for dear life. Such is the state of American politics today. Happy New Year.