Opinion: We’ve Gone From A Fiscal Cliff To A Hole

Frank Giles

In April 2009, I wrote an editorial called “On The Edge Of A Cliff.” At the time, I used the cliff as a metaphor for our still fairly young fiscal crisis. When I wrote the column, I expressed confidence that we would climb out of our economic mess based on the principles of freedom and our creativity and perseverance.

That was nearly four years ago and the economy is still lumbering along with a recovery that has been sluggish at best. We’ve certainly thrown enough money at the problem. If government spending is the answer, you would think we’d be further along. We’ve done bailouts, created “shovel ready” jobs, stimulated all over the place, and printed a ship load of money.
Back then, our national debt was slightly more than $11 trillion. Today it is about $16.5 trillion. If we peer into the future, many projections put the debt well on its way to $23 trillion by 2017. Looking at these figures, I’ll admit the confidence I expressed in 2009 is shaken.

I suspect very few of you felt your confidence bolstered by the “fiscal cliff” debate that consumed DC politics in the latter part of 2012. The media created dramatic logo graphics to lead in news stories on potential that Republicans and Democrats/President Obama might not come to a budget compromise before we go over the edge.

The way Congress and the Administration debated and the media covered the fiscal cliff, my radar went up pretty quick that it was all a game from the start. Just think about how much time was wasted focusing on which side would win. We didn’t look at our real fiscal problems, we watched the political game of who would cave first?

As January 1 approached, we were teetering on the cliff so close to the edge you could see figurative tiny little pebbles falling off into oblivion. By then, the media was in a fever pitch reporting nearly non-stop that it looked like we might really go off the cliff.

In the end, after all the posturing and hand wringing, an agreement was reached and the dreaded fiscal cliff was averted. The politicians patted each other on the back and congratulated themselves on saving you and me from fiscal Armageddon. The media moved on to the next sideshow to cover.

The agreement was mostly a win for the Democrats. The Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire on incomes of more than $450,000 and would raise about $600 billion in revenues over the next decade. We rang up slightly more than $1 trillion in deficit spending in 2012 alone. Looking at this, it should be clear we will never tax our way out of this “fiscal hole.” Wait. Did I just coin another catchy media term?

We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Sadly, I am not as confident we will dig ourselves out of our fiscal hole until we absolutely must, along with the pain that comes with it. That’s because there is as large of a deficit in reality in DC as there is in dollars.

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