I get it: The decisions on everything having to do with the federal budget are difficult and, if you’re running for re-election, best left until after Election Day. I also understand that, if you’re a Member of Congress, there’s a politically strategic value to wait until you know which party will be in charge of the House and Senate and the size of the majority before making a decision on how to proceed on the various revenue, spending, deficit and debt questions that have been left hanging. After all, you might get more of what you want after the election than before.
But I also understand more than ever before about how angry many outside the Beltway seem to be about the elections somehow being more important than the economy. Over the past two weeks I have spoken to five different groups that cut across the income and political spectrums, and all have expressed not just dissatisfaction but something close to total disdain about this situation. More than six months before it begins, the cliff is causing a great deal of heartburn.
My anger may be even greater than theirs because I don’t see there being enough time, votes, consensus or willingness to compromise for cliff-related agreements to be reached, translated into legislation, debated and enacted.
In addition, everything that has to be determined during the cliff is related in some way to almost everything else that has to be considered. For example, a decision on the sequester or providing 2012 alternative minimum tax relief, let alone on extending the tax cuts, will change the projected deficit and, therefore, the amount the debt ceiling has to be raised. That means that it really won’t be possible for anything to be decided until everything is decided.
It also means that the most likely outcome of the cliff will be “The Cliff 2: The Budget Strikes Back” coming to a theater near you at some point next year. The hype, complete with full-page ads, online commercials and previews in theaters, will begin to appear this fall.
Stan Collender is a partner at Qorvis Communications and founder of the blog Capital Gains and Games. He is also the author of “The Guide to the Federal Budget.”