The fiscal cliff drama is over, now we can spend, spend, spend!

The news this holiday season was full of drama and the fiscal cliff crisis played out like a reality TV show. Photo: rlt

DOTHAN, AL, January 4, 2013 — Wow, take a few days off for a holiday and all sorts of things happen in the news. It wasn’t that long ago that Christmas was a really slow news time and the only ones left in the newsroom were cub reporters who covered obituaries and sports scores. This year, thanks to the ongoing soap opera that we call the federal government, the news was chock full of drama.

At the top of the TV channel line-up this holiday season was Fiscal Cliff, the unreal reality show that played out like a whole season of Revenge meets The Walking Dead. The scriptwriters get most of the credit for the success of Fiscal Cliff, but several actors are likely to be nominated for awards. Barack Obama, playing “the Prez,” was thoroughly convincing as the cool, self-assured and over-achieving community organizer who would stop at nothing to demonize and crush his opponents.

John Boehner, portraying a House Speaker, convinced us he was a sad and tragic figure. The special effects crew gets credit for  making him look like a bloodhound on the verge of tears as he tried in vain to save his failing party. Supporting actor Harry Reid added to the eerie atmosphere of Congress with a brief appearance as a modern-day Renfield.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell provided some comic relief and had the funniest line with “Duh, which way did he go boss, which way did he go?” Many of the characterizations were worthy of a Charles Dickens novel and we can’t wait for the mid-season sequel due this summer, At the Bottom of the Cliff.

Scriptwriters were also busy at work over this holiday to capitalize on the growing debate over gun control. This resulted in the launch of not just one, but two animated comedies that will delight viewers everywhere. Misfire is about an Elmer Fudd type of character, with the voice of  NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, who tries to convince woodland animals to take up arms and help protect the carrot patch from “wascally wabbits.”  

The other show still in production is a remake of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice entitled Three Ring Clown. It features the ever-popular Joe “they’re gonna put ya’ll back in chains” Biden as the voice of a befuddled clown who finds himself in charge of the circus when the ringmaster leaves to play golf.

The season premiere is about how the clown struggles to control some guns that magically come to life and dance about shooting up the circus tent. The preview showed an elephant stampede and braying donkeys just to add to the fun and confusion.

Of course the big New Year’s TV event was dropping the ball, not only at Times Square but also in Congress, and not one news program mentioned that 2013 marks the 100th year since the 16th Amendment was ratified. It was this amendment that gave the federal government its first truly legitimate authority to tax citizens:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

That kind of sounds like the whole Democratic Party platform doesn’t it?

The most interesting parts of the fiscal cliff drama were the bits that weren’t televised or even discussed in the one-sided negotiations. Let’s take a peek behind the scenes and see went into making this holiday entertainment extravaganza:

Whatever his faults as a leader or manager, and they are plentiful, President Obama is a shrewd and single-minded politician. Not only did he manage to finally split the Republican Party in the House, the last obstacle to his spending programs, he also managed to keep the entire dialogue focused on taxes and away from the deficit.

At one point Boehner offered the same amount of revenue from cleaning up the tax code as could be gained from raising tax percentages, but Obama rejected that. If raising revenue was truly the President’s only goal as he claimed, then he could have easily accepted the deal and moved things along.

However, by insisting that tax rates needed to increase, and by campaigning for populist support by demonizing the rich, Obama forced the House GOP into a corner and the party split in the final vote.

The Republican congressmen who supported the fiscal cliff deal will, in the next election, have to explain to some angry voters why they broke their promises of no tax increases. If they get bumped out of office, that could open seats to the Democrats and give Obama the mandate he thinks he should have for his social equality programs. In other words, there will be few limits on federal spending and the debt will continue its meteoric rise.

By the time the debt becomes a really serious, facing default crisis, Obama will be out of office and someone else will have to clean up his mess. Isn’t it amazing what goes into making a reality TV political drama?

Obama has now proven for certain that he is a true Social Democrat in the classic European mold, and the GOP has proven it is outdated, has no leadership and is in complete disarray. Both parties together have proven that the two-party system is broken and taxpayers, not just the rich but all of us, are paying the price for their incompetence. There is a high cost to hiring politicians who want to be media stars more than they want to be leaders.

The American electorate has a responsibility in all this too. No matter how boring it may seem to follow the details of what the government does, it is important to be well-informed in order to keep tabs on elected officials. They work for us, not the other way around, and very few of them are doing a very good job right now.

It’s about time to start paying more attention while we can still afford to own a television and pay for the electricity to turn it on.

 

(Get The Backstory and more at Rick’s author blog www.ricktownley.com)


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Rick Townley

Rick Townley was a bookseller before switching to electronic publishing with The New York Times, Reuters, Grolier and others. He is the author of a humor book, For Boomers Only – Exploring Life in the New Millennium, a supernatural novel, Stepping Out of Time, and numerous short stories. In addition to contributing to the Washington Times Communities, Rick is working on a fiction series called Stigma and resides in southern Alabama with his 7-year-old granddaughter, Chloe.

 

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