Do You Fear What I Fear?
Washington can be a strange place. It’s the only town where a Christmas tree is not a lovely holiday centerpiece, but instead a bloated appropriations bill filled with funding for pet projects. Pork isn’t the main dish, and bringing home the bacon usually results in you and me footing the bill for something we never knew we needed, like the infamous Bridge to Nowhere.
The end of the year in Washington also includes the time-honored tradition of taking out the trash. Perhaps we will work to pardon a political patron. Or offer staff large bonuses. Or do anything that we would not do when anyone is paying attention.
Not a creature is stirring, and that’s leading to lack of progress on the fiscal cliff standoff. While the nation and financial markets hold their collective breath, we wait. Will the automatic spending cuts kick in? Will middle class tax breaks evaporate? Will the middle class itself, evaporate? Some days it feels like it is all slipping away.
It is a very unnerving way to end the year. Caution is the watchword of the day. Cut back on gifts and travel, in case of sequestration. Don’t buy a car or a house. Don’t let your child commit to a college or university.
As in Dickens, we are being haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past. We have spent money on programs, without having revenue coming in to foot the bill. And now the jig is up. Do we cut spending, raise taxes or do a combination of both? Can our elected officials exercise leadership principles and make the tough decisions, or are they content for the automatic cuts to go into effect?
Is the art of compromise a lost art? Will the President or Congress blink when they are “triple-dog dared”?
Do you fear what I fear? That the people who got us into the mess stand little chance of getting us out? That the instability of the situation suits some who yearn to play the hero in the final act? That we got the dysfunctional Congress we voted for, and the one we deserve?
If we have nothing to fear but fear itself, we are in for some challenging times ahead. Time to cue the holiday miracle.