“Fiscal Cliff” Chatter is a Waste of Time

You can’t turn on a TV “news” channel or pick up a newspaper without hearing or reading about the “fiscal cliff” and the “negotiations” supposedly taking place to avoid it. I wish the pundits would stop kidding us. They know perfectly well that a “compromise” is extremely unlikely and the “cliff” is really an artificial deadline. But I guess fear mongering attracts viewers and readers so we will be bombarded with Chicken Little chatter all through the Christmas season.

I am not saying President Obama and House Speaker Boehner wouldn’t like to reach an agreement. For all I know, their back-and-forth is sincere (although it certainly doesn’t sound like it).

But I see no way of avoiding the so-called cliff.

The current composition of the US Congress makes gridlock seem inevitable.

Do you think for one minute that Bernie Sanders – or any of the other progressives in the Senate – is going to accept cuts to Medicare or Social Security? Do you think for one minute that the Republicans in the Senate who just voted against ratifying a UN treaty protecting handicapped people around the world will agree to leave the social safety net undamaged? Do you think the Tea Party caucus in the House will accept higher tax rates for the rich?

I don’t see any chance of compromise legislation being enacted as long as the filibuster is available in the Senate and the House is full of Tea Party crazies.

There will most likely be panic when the Bush tax cuts sunset and the deadline for avoiding those massive spending cuts agreed on in last year’s debt ceiling stand-off is upon us. The stock market will likely nosedive once again. Economists will tell us we are back in recession.

The media will tell us the sky is falling.

But the sky will not fall. The stock market will go up again. The economy will stagger to its feet as it always does. And sometime next year, the tax cuts will probably be restored for the first $250,000 of a couple’s annual income and the first $200,000 for individuals.

What will happen after that is anyone’s guess.

My guess is that we will have the same kind of gridlock as we’ve had for the past couple of years.

I wish I could say that things will get better, but there will undoubtedly be suffering. Some of the long-term unemployed will lose their benefits, I suspect.  Working stiffs will almost certainly see a dent in their paychecks – at least until the Republicans accept an extension of tax cuts for the middle class. The economy will limp along as the politicians butt heads in Washington. We might even face another debt ceiling debacle and another cut in America’s credit rating – making it more expensive for Uncle Sam to borrow money.

Looking at the polls. I imagine the Republicans will pay for their craziness in the 2014 midterm elections, but they could still hold on to the House.

The underlying problem is that the United States of America is far from united.

In states like Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, South Carolina, Utah, Oklahoma, Wyoming. Montana … the Old South, the Wild West and the rural Heartland… there is  basically only one party.

The overwhelming majority of the folks who live there are dyed-in-the-wool Republicans. Southern states have been Republican ever since Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act back in 1965. A lot of the people who live there are still mad at the federal government for forcing them to let black citizens vote and accept black students in their white schools. It will take many more years for that resentment to fade.

It’s not hard to imagine how they feel about cooperating with American’s first African-American president.

In New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland, Connecticut, California, Oregon, Washington … the coastal states and the urban Northeast… the Democratic Party reigns. Those states will continue to send progressives to Congress.

The way I see it, America’s only hope is immigration.

With new blood infusing states like New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio,Pennsylvania (even Arizona and Texas), the political climate is changing, and the change is toward more progressive politics.

I expect that one day the progressives (not just Democrats but progressives) will control both houses of Congress, and common sense (what I regard as common sense, anyway) will prevail. But that day is still years – perhaps decades – away, and I might not live to see it.

Meanwhile, the relentlessly divided country will suffer under a push-you-pull-you government that is unable to do anything much.

And we will have to endure the useless chatter about one crisis and another.