You know that old adage that goes something along the lines of, you can't know another's pain until you've felt it yourself? Well, we're all about to come to consensus in this country and endure some serious pain together as we prepare to go over the so-called "fiscal cliff."
Party politics don't change overnight, and certainly won't change just because of election night. Congressional Republicans see the cliff and election results as their mandate to be entrenched against the evils of government spending, whereas Democrats see spending as a means to an end in the search for economic stability. Both parties have economists and voters on their sides; both have historical evidence to back them up, and neither will compromise on the promises made to the voters.
"In my party, compromise cannot be seen as analogous to treason," said John Huntsman in an interview with the Huffington Post.
Both parties needed to follow this advice many years ago. Given the current political climate and inability to build any consensus, Erskine Bowles, a former co-chairman of Obama's debt commission, may have said it best. "I think the probability is we're going over the cliff."
Forget falling off, if it's going to happen anyway, we may as well go base jumping off the fiscal cliff — at least it will be intentional. Here's why base jumping off the cliff is a better alternative to several more years of uncompromising gridlock in Washington:
1. Time for Something Radical.
It's been a long time coming. Republicans have been advocating for cuts in government spending for as long as I can remember, and Democrats have been fighting to increase revenue at least since the recession. So maybe it's time both got their wishes. The cliff is a radical, extreme jump — a fundamental shift in public policy, and will significantly change the way we address budgeting in this country.
We got to this point because Congress decided that if we kicked the can down the road a bit, that we'd come to some kind of consensus in the future. But nothing has really changed, and maybe something radical like jumping off the cliff will force politicians to work together (or lose their next elections to moderate candidates).
2. We've Been Jumping Off Cliffs this Entire Decade.
People who choose to base jump have a hard time finding insurance because of how dangerous it is to jump off of cliffs. But we've been jumping off cliffs for the last decade. The home mortgage crisis, financial engineering, multiple wars and bailouts, these were just some of them. A combination of private and public factors have brought us to this point. We elected those who chose to bailout entire industries and start wars abroad. Many private citizens participated in clever financial schemes. Now we have to bear the burdens of those decisions, even those we individually may have opposed.
3. It's Going to Hurt, but Maybe in a Good Way.
Sometimes when you jump, you get injured and it hurts. Sometimes the treatment for the injury is also painful, but often necessary. Could this plunge us into a recession again? Yes. But the pain of depressed economics is far less than the pain of continued irresponsibility that has gotten us into this mess. Finally we're owning up to the decisions that we collectively and individually made and this medicine might be just what it takes to get us thinking clearly again so we don't make the same mistakes in the next decade.
4. There Is No Going Back.
- We've kicked the can down the road for long enough. The previous fiscal cliffs we've jumped off of already, though much smaller by comparison, have lead us here and there is no going back to undo what has been done. We've stepped off, now all we can do is control where we land to the best of our abilities. By intentionally leaping off this fiscal cliff Obama and Congress will be taking a real step toward getting the budget back under control, there is no real choice left at this point.
5. At Least There's a Parachute.
Things can and will go wrong, but at least we've got an economic parachute. American creativity, ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit will ensure that we won't leave a disastrously indebted nation to future generations, and we will recover from this painful, tumultuous economic period. We've got each other too, and that's something important. while Americans will bicker, complain and disagree with one another, we will all endure this pain together and probably end up closer, and hopefully wiser as we look to the future.