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Going Over the Cliff

As a nation, we are condemned to watch our political leaders expose their immaturity, ignorance and self-destructive petulance in a "battle of will" (or lack of will) over what everyone now calls "the fiscal cliff".

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke invented that misleading piece of catastrophe-addicted rhetoric and that should tell you something about its accuracy: about as accurate as everything else Bernanke says. But there's a way in which this economic horror fiction is revealing. Maybe, in fact, there is a cliff that we aren't all seeing and that those with power are hiding from us.

Their "cliff", of course, is the activation at year's end of measures mandated by an atrocity called the Budget Control Act of 2011 which was the GOP's trade to the President for keeping the government open when it faced a "debt-ceiling" crisis almost two years ago. The bill mandates that the deficit be heavily reduced in a year or we would face this "fiscal cliff".

Some brilliant bulbs in the GOP thought they could play hardball. The cliff was supposed to be a pressure against the Obama Administration to assure that it accepted tax reduction and spending cuts of the type the Republicans have long been seeking.

But something got in the way -- the elections. And it turns out that most of us don't want cuts to Social Security or Medicaid or Medicare. Most Americans want a national health-care program. And few Americans want to continue wars that waste obscene amounts of money, losing American lives and taking many more lives of other people.

So the logic of this stupid law was countered by the American people's approval of Obama's support for safety net programs, ending wars and his very real, albeit fragmentary, health-care program. The President understands elections; winning them is his most conspicuous talent. He also must be tremendously pissed at the GOP for the insulting, openly racist campaign it ran against him. Who can blame a brother for saying "what???" to some asinine cracker?

Now we're at this fiscal cliff. And all the mainstream media (which excludes MSNBC, Current and Free Speech TV) are doing a doomsday chant. What will happen if we go over this fiscal cliff? Why isn't Obama dancing to John Boehner's drum beat? Why is he so uppity? What happened to compromise? How much wreckage can we expect January 1?

Of course, were we to go over this cliff at year's end, a new Congress (with many more Democrats) would take over and reverse every single element of the cliff, catching us in mid-fall and rendering the hysteria to little more than that. So this cliff ain't a cliff at all. In fact, unless noone does anything to reverse its draconian measures, it ain't nothing at all.

Barack Obama knows that and so do the Republicans who are callling him out without the muscle to back them up. If he's anything, the President is a remarkable politician, a man who can read situations and maneuver political constituencies. He understands something the GOP doesn't: he was re-elected in part based on doing the opposite of what the Republicans are now insisting he do.

One expects what we're hearing from the Republicans and from Obama. He's too sharp to say anything else and they are, as this past election demonstrated, clue-less and their search for a clue, if it in fact ensued, has apparently yielded none. They don't believe in full electoral democracy and, now that it has kicked them in the butt, they still can't get used to accommodating it.

But what are we to make of our dumb de dumb media? Where is it written that reporters have to fall for this garbage? Why do otherwise apparently intelligent people, who are paid huge salaries to report stuff, continue to repeat baseless statements?

For example, that Social Security is going broke -- which it absolutely isn't and, with a slight adjustment in the taxing procedures, never will. Or that Medicaid and Medicare are "driving our fiscal crisis"? Does that mean that programs that effectively keep large numbers of people healthy or at least not dying aren't worth financing? Or that they somehow have replaced the military budget, which employes 3.2 million people (the largest employer on earth) as our largest expenditure?

It appears now that Social Security cuts are off the table in this dance of destruction but those health programs are very much in line for cuts. And the question arises:

Is killing people my age and older the way to deal with "budget balancing"? Do you do that in your household -- "Things are tight this month so one of the kids has to die"? Is that productivity? Isn't it a good investment to keep older people alive, using our wisdom, skill and energy (since we oldsters are "younger" than oldsters of a generation ago)? What's the logic of putting so much into the development of a person and then killing him or her?

Is that the formula for a successful society? Or is this entire fiscal cliff scam yet another way of dealing with the primary question facing the American economy: that we don't have enough jobs for everyone and can't really create them under this economic structure and so we need to get rid of people of color by putting them in jail or older people by putting them in the grave or younger men (a most troublesome group to have around when they get angry) by sending them to war?

Those are the questions a strong and productive media would be probing. It would take up how to restructure our society and the debate around that. But our media is paid for and owned by big corporations that don't want that question asked and so it is shamelessly lying to us in exchange for a paycheck. We give these people freedom of the press to do a job and look at what they do!

The antidote, of course, is the Internet and its army of bloggers and websites that have saved us by providing a progressive and truthful perspective on a lot of this. They ask the questions. And I have a few.

Maybe the question isn't whether we go off a cliff but whether we are ready to restructure this society to redefine paid work and incorporate so much of the productive stuff people do that is never compensated.

Are we ready to redefine the distribution of our wealth so that the priority is to make sure everyone has a decent life rather than each of us individually struggling to survive or, in a few cases, trying get richer than everybody you know?

Are we ready to close our prison system and deal with people who commit crime as people whose life-path can be redirected rather than shut down?

Are we ready to prepare our kids to be truly critical thinkers through schools that are driven by their needs rather than the policing needs of an increasingly repressive society?

Are we ready to get our people healthy in the fullest sense through diet and quality of life?

Are we ready to use our wealth to refashion our infrastructure to make travel, communications and survival easier?

Are we ready to admit, as a society, that the human race is about to be eliminated and saving it is the absolute human priority?

Are we ready to declare war as the primary obscenity of our era and simply stop it. Period. Just no longer fight wars. No more killing people because you don't like what they're saying or what they believe or what policies they follow in their own country or their background, language or skin color. Let's see how that changes our society and our people and our policies toward them and the world.

Here's what's amazing: I'll bet that nothing I have writen here in my questions seems illogical to you. In other words, we *are* ready. Our media tell us we're not. They see life in static terms where what you believe today is what you'll believe forever. But we who organized through the Vietnam period know that millions of people transform their politics virtually overnight when someone convinces them that not only can they ask these types of questions but they can actually find the answers.

This fiscal cliff is a nothing. Our cliff is a society that is hurting and limping and showing the wounds of its insanity and illogic, frightening us away from taking on the real issues and questions. Our cliff is the death of our people by capitalism and that's a very real cliff we need to avoid going over.