Joseph Curl | The ‘fiscal cliff’ getaway call

Before we get started with the column proper, let’s take a moment to explore  the very term itself — “fiscal cliff.”

The euphemistic neologism had bounced around in various forms in the past few  years — almost always in connection with the tax cuts enacted by President George W. Bush — but the phrase took on its  current usage in February. On a cold winter day, Federal  Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke  (originally a Bush appointee) told a House  committee that America would tumble off “a massive fiscal cliff of large  spending cuts and tax increases” if Congress  didn’t cancel the package.

The phrase was, of course, immediately adopted by the left. Think of the  horror! America careens off a “fiscal cliff” — like Thelma and Louise  flying into the canyon — if Congress (gasp!)  lets taxes rise and (heaven forbid!) allows spending cuts to take effect.  Imagine, they said, if the United States were suddenly forced to make an effort  to balance its budget — if suddenly the country couldn’t spend $3.6 trillion  when it takes in only $2.5 trillion?! The horror!

Not surprisingly, the blunderbusses in the Republican  Party simply started parroting the phrase. House leaders use it; so do top GOP senators. And so does Fox News, for  that matter. Although the package of spending cuts and the (long-planned)  expiration of the Bush tax cuts also includes setting the Alternative Minimum  Tax threshold back to levels in the year 2000 and ending ever-growing federal  unemployment benefits, the GOP adopted  the identical language of Democrats — it’s a cliff, and America must slam on the  brakes, quickly.

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