If no budget deal is reached between Congress and President Barack Obama by the end of the year, the United States will face what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke described as "a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases."
We know the seriousness of this situation because no news program goes more than 10 minutes without telling us the seriousness of the situation.
The closest historical precedence for anything like the "fiscal cliff" is found in the 1984 movie, "Ghostbusters" -- when the ghostbusters inform the mayor of New York that the city is threatened by a disaster of biblical proportions:
Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes . . .
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
The news media have told us that the failure to avoid the fiscal cliff will result in--and make no mistake about it--a serious situation. They've reported that there will be an immediate tax increase on most earners and massive cuts to government programs, the defense budget, and Medicare.
But this is just the stuff they're telling us. Could it mean the end of the world? It might just be worse than that.
Here is a partial list of what will happen if Congress and the president don't agree to a budget deal before January 1, 2013.
-- The United States will convert to the metric system.
-- Replacement refs will return to the National Football League.
-- Congress will repeal the laws of gravity, leaving thousands of other bills up in the air.