Congress has an approval rating somewhere between pond scum and gonorrhea, and it's no mystery when they devote so much of our taxpayer-funded time to debate non-issues like the so-called "fiscal cliff." With so many more crucial matters to debate -- global climate change and related weather disasters, faltering public health system, the rising number of homeless Americans, the disappearing middle class, under funded education programs, under-regulated nuclear power plants, the never-ending terror wars and torture state -- Congress has selected this phony "fiscal cliff" issue as the Most Important Subject to discuss.
Why? Jesse Jackson, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, has an explanation:
"Why do imaginary phantoms terrify, while real-life horrors seem normal? Why do our elected representatives act in ways that trample the values of those who elected them?
"Consider the current debate in Washington. The city is in full uproar about the so-called "fiscal cliff," the deep cuts in spending and hikes in taxes scheduled to take place at the end of the year. To listen to this debate, you would think the end of the world will come if Congress and the president don't reach an agreement to cut Medicare and possibly Social Security and increase taxes over the next 10 years to avoid going over the cliff.
"Don't fall for the hype.
"The fiscal cliff is not a product of nature. It is rather a dangerously foolish austerity bomb created by Congress in the debt-ceiling negotiations 18 months ago. Essentially, Congress is threatening to blow up the economy unless Congress agrees not to blow up the economy. The threat is used to extort agreements that would otherwise simply be unacceptable -- such as cutting Medicare and Social Security, the basic pillars of family security.
"And the supposed underlying threat of out-of-control deficits is equally imaginary. Deficits are down, as a percentage of the economy, by 25 percent since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009. They will continue to come down if the economy continues to grow. That is endangered not by homemade bombs, but by a world economy that is headed back toward recession. And growth is also endangered if Congress cuts deficits too rapidly by slashing spending and raising taxes -- kneecapping an already-faltering recovery. Interest rates on U.S. Treasury notes are at near-record lows. Markets -- investors -- are telling us that the threat isn't out-of-control deficits and inflation; the threat is slow growth or worse.
"While everyone is in hysteria about phantoms, the real horrors are ignored. Record numbers of Americans have already gone over the cliff with no help in sight. More than 20 million people are in need of full-time work, and Washington is focused on cutting deficits, not creating jobs. Poverty is at near-record levels and inequality at new extremes, and Washington is talking about cutting programs for the vulnerable. Racial and gender inequity still throws hurdles in front of a majority of the country, but isn't on the agenda. Violence still haunts our streets, but receives no attention.
"These things are real, not imaginary. They exist now, not as phantom fears. And they cost big-time."
No kidding. Life sucks for that percentage of us Mitt Romney would disdain because we expect our government to spend our money responsibly and tax us fairly and not create a Capitalist kingdom where the Mitts of the nation accumulate piles of money (which they hide in foreign accounts to avoid US taxes), while the rest of us lose our homes and move into empty boxcars while the American Dream is redefined to include only the top 1%.
A more cynical -- if not more accurate -- explanation for the cliff-hanging hysteria was expressed in the Guardian of the UK, by way of our very own White House:
"A failure to reach a deal over the year-end automatic spending cuts and an expiration of tax breaks -- known collectively as the fiscal cliff -- would hit consumer spending and economic growth in the holiday season, according to the White House.
"As Congress resumed after the Thanksgiving break and after the busiest shopping weekend of the year in the US, the Obama administration released a prediction that consumer confidence would take a significant hit if a deal was not reached."
Now, we can't have any interference with the capitalist feeding frenzy that "celebrates" the Tiny Baby Jesus, can we? Thank Ford, Obama is looking out for the big corporate retailers; the truly needy this holiday season.