Failing the fiscal physical

It seems we are about to fall off the “fiscal cliff.” Didn’t we already do that? What happened in 2007 and 2008 when the value of our homes got cut in half? What was that? A fiscal speed bump? A fiscal slap on the back of the head? Whatever euphemism you want to use, falling off the fiscal cliff is a pretty short drop for most of us after that.

What was it when we had to bail out the banks and the auto manufacturers? A fiscal parachute that failed to open? Falling into a fiscal wood chipper? Buying the fiscal farm? Eating the fiscal puffer fish? Choking on our own fiscal vomit? Failing the fiscal physical?

Boy, if we fall off the fiscal cliff, horrible things will happen. That college I already can’t afford to send my kids to will raise its prices. That used car I already can’t afford to buy will be even more expensive.



If we jump on the fiscal hand grenade, if we stick our finger in the fiscal electrical socket, if we touch the fiscal third rail, people who are out of work now will still be out of work. How will they even know we hit the fiscal bridge abutment at 100 mph? Unless someone tells them, they won’t notice much of a difference.

If the fiscal dam breaks, if the fiscal China syndrome occurs, if the fiscal cherry bomb explodes, if the fiscal pandemic spreads, if the fiscal Waterloo arrives, how will the people whose homes are already under the fiscal water be able to fiscally tell? They still won’t be able to pay their fiscal bills.

It’s almost as if you can make anything sound bad by putting the word “fiscal” in front of it. Don’t eat the fiscal breakfast burrito; the fiscal “Three Amigos” wasn’t as funny as they told me; don’t bring home a fiscal report card. But people who lost money when Lehman Brothers, AIG and Citigroup tanked won’t know if they’re getting fiscally waterboarded. Things will be pretty much the same for them.

A columnist in a major newsmagazine said, “It’s a bad time to be rich.” Yes, as you can well imagine, it must be horrible to have a lot of money.

You may have noticed that the rich are always complaining about it. It’s a wonder they don’t give away all that money so they can be wildly happy like the rest of us. No doubt they’re wishing they were poor now, like all the lucky people who get to wonder where their next paycheck is coming from. The wealthy are missing all the fun of deciding which bill to pay first — the one for rent, the car loan, heating oil, medical or food — and which not to pay at all. Boy, I wouldn’t want to be rich right now; it really must stink.

If only there were some way to avoid this fiscal Bataan Death March, this fiscal Mount St. Helens, this fiscal Superstorm Sandy, this fiscal Hurricane Katrina, this fiscal San Francisco earthquake, this fiscal Pompeii, this fiscal Titanic, this fiscal Krakatoa. What could we possibly do? What can anyone do? Cut the Defense Department’s budget by a third, solving the problem overnight and still leaving us with the biggest military in the world by far? Stop, that’s crazy talk.

If you and I fall off a real cliff, we die. If our economy goes over a fiscal cliff, not one political career will die. The difference is that when you and I die, someone, somewhere, might care.

Jim Mullen’s newest book is called “Kill Me, Elmo: The Holiday Depression Fun Book.” You can reach him at JimMullenBooks.com.

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