It's at times like this I'm ashamed to admit I live inside the Beltway.
Well, that's probably not specific enough since I'm usually ashamed to admit I live inside the Beltway.
Still, the second you try to explain the stupidity of this "fiscal cliff" fiasco to a normal person, it makes William F. Buckley's famous declaration that he'd rather be governed by the first few hundred people listed in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard seem all the more reasonable.
While there are some responsible politicians and policymakers in Washington, if you look at the whole place collectively, Uncle Sam starts to look like a junkie. The logic of addiction dictates that you make a deal that allows you to avoid all of your problems now and enjoy a quick high in exchange for a painful confrontation with reality down the road.
Almost exactly a year ago, during the famed debt ceiling negotiations, Speaker of the House John Boehner boasted that he'd forced tough concessions from the Democrats, achieving the first real cut in government spending in ages. He claimed his "real, enforceable cut" amounted to $7 billion for fiscal year 2012. The Congressional Budget Office objected, saying the real savings were closer to $1 billion.
"Which of these numbers is accurate?" asked columnist Mark Steyn at the time. Answering his own question, he wrote: "The correct answer is: Who cares?"
And he was right. At the time, the U.S. was spending $188 million of largely borrowed money every hour of every day. So, going by the CBO number, if you started watching the official "Godfather" trilogy box set right after the deal was cut, the government would have burned through its "savings" before Fredo went on his last fishing trip. If you went by Boehner's math, you could actually watch the whole trilogy about four times before the "savings" ran out.
America already has a more progressive tax system than Europe, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The Democrats insist that the rich need to start paying their "fair share," which means even more progressivity. The Republicans, meanwhile ... agree! The difference is that the GOP wants to eliminate loopholes and exemptions while keeping rates where they are. Democrats would prefer simply raising the rates.