Fiscal cliffs, real and imagined

Published 10:12 pm Wednesday, December 5, 2012

By Roger Leonard

In our world of Fox News and MSNBC, do we really get hard news anymore? Is it all about opinion and fluff, or are we caught in the maniacal plans of moneyed interest groups?

Our country is perhaps, the most polarized it has ever been. We are, without a doubt, split by basic political philosophy and thinking. There is about 50 percent of the population on each side of the political spectrum and absolute stalemate as a result.

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The latest presidential race pointed this brutal fact out to all, and it is being reinforced every day you turn on cable news. You get to watch the standard-bearers for the conservatives on Fox and the liberals on MSNBC, spew out their tirades and claims, only serving their specific agendas and outlooks.

Judging from the cable news ratings, it would appear that conservatives outnumber liberals, as Fox has much higher ratings than MSNBC, but the national election seems to indicate otherwise.

The idea of conservatives outnumbering liberals, though, was debunked by the loss of the Republican nominee for president in a manner not expected or reported on Fox, and it points out a perception problem in their closed news model.

The perception problem I am speaking of is found in the circular self-reinforced news cycle and discussion on each network. There is an implied belief by many of the pundits reporting, that they can predict the course of great events. Clearly this is not so, and what we get is a lot of pandering, rather than the news or facts.

The latest grand episode is the fiscal cliff. I guess I am like most people: I fear it and oppose it, but when I think about it I am struck by how silly it really is. I expect the House of Representatives will approve freezing tax rates for people making less than $250,000, as the Senate has already done, and then leave town for Christmas. The rest of the mess will wait until next year.

The fiscal cliff is a contrived name for some taxes being raised and some spending being reduced by a small percentage of the national budget. In a country that has annual deficits of more than $1.3 trillion and a national debt of more than $16 trillion, I must ask this: So what?

Actually, I really like the sequestration plan that works on reducing what Congress will be allowed to spend. It and raising taxes are what many voted for in November, so let it happen and see how it works.

I prefer not spending what we don’t have and raising some taxes for what we commit to spend. It sounds better than what we have been getting, even if some defense contractors don’t like it. And Doomsday will not drop upon us as a result.

We as a great nation need fundamental change, and as citizens we need to pay attention to the real facts and issues. To get caught up in a stream of babble by the talking heads serves no interest, but that of interest groups that do not have our interests at heart.

We need our government to spend only what it takes in and the citizens to define what the limits of such taxes and such spending will be. If not, we will go over the real fiscal cliff, rather than the figurative one that we hear so much about from the vested interests and pundits of both sides.

Roger Leonard is from Suffolk. Email him at