By Matthew Rothschild on December 28, 2012

Enough already!

I can't take it anymore.

I can barely write the words "fiscal cliff" without dozing off. And I'm not alone here. Utter the term to insomniacs and out they'll go.

The hackneyed metaphor, the breathless reporting on cable TV, the jockeying for position -- it all bores the snot out of me. This story is not of the same magnitude as the November elections or the Sandy Hook massacre, yet the cable talk shows play it at the same high-pitched volume.

And after this weekend or by the end of January at the latest, Congress will have passed a budget bill that maintains middle class tax cuts and averts the alleged calamities that, in all probability, were never going to come to pass anyway.

After all, which elected official is really going to want to be held responsible for raising taxes across the board and sending the stock market into a swoon?

So the endless hours, days, and weeks of overheated commentary will have been for naught.

Plus, the outlines of the eventual deal are already in sight. Obama has -- surprise, surprise -- given ground on his position that there should be no extension of tax breaks for those making more than $250,000. (Watch for an additional concession on the estate tax, too. That's what the rich really want.)

Obama has already agreed, foolishly, to cut domestic programs, which will risk a double-dip recession.

Obama has already, agreed, shamefully, to "the chained Consumer Price Index," which will diminish the amount seniors get for Social Security. (Note: The average senior gets less than $15,000 a year on Social Security. Most seniors depend on their Social Security for more than half their income. Two out of five seniors rely on it for 90 percent of their income, and a quarter of them rely entirely on it. These seniors are barely getting by, as it is.)

What's been lost in almost all the coverage is the fact that Obama set in motion the train of events that is leading to this regressive outcome.

He willingly invoked Republican rhetoric in exaggerating the problems of budget deficits and the national debt. For instance, he erroneously compared the nation's budget to family budgets. He also talked about not saddling our grandchildren with debt and not putting our nation's spending on the credit card. These are all rightwing tropes.

He appointed Peter Orszag to be his first director of the Office of Management and Budget. Orszag was on record favoring the "chained CPI." (Orszag is now at Citigroup.)

He empaneled the Bowles-Simpson commission, which he didn't need to do. And he packed it with people who saw dragons in every deficit.

He failed to call the Republicans' bluff on previous occasions when they played chicken with the debt limit.

And he offered a "grand bargain" with John Boehner last year that has many of the same awful concessions he's proposing now.

The "fiscal cliff" has been a tiresome charade, and it disguises the fact that both parties are taking us down the path of austerity.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "On NDAA, Senate Dems Throw Feinstein Overboard, Drown Our Basic Liberty ."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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