Thomasson: How to back away from the 'fiscal cliff'

"For 2 1/2 centuries, we have managed to

"For 2 1/2 centuries, we have managed to meet the crises and survive. If history has any validity, we will muddle through on this one, too," writes Dan K. Thomasson. (Credit: M. Ryder / Tribune Media Services)

If there is any validity to historic precedence, the Congress and the White House ultimately will come to some sort of compromise over the impending doom of sequestration, but not before the Dec. 31 deadline is only moments away.

In the meantime, those who occupy opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue here will have put the nation through a holiday season of strain rarely matched since Pearl Harbor. This has prompted a variety of suggestions on how to break the stalemate over spending cuts, tax increases and all the other economic questions plaguing us.

One idea propounded recently would be to withhold the pay and benefits of all the parties involved until such time as they become reasonable. That includes the members of Congress and everyone working in the White House, without exception. Perhaps the threat of a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings would do the trick, the theory goes.


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A second idea, and the one I personally like, would be to transport all the same bozos (male and female) to the Grand Canyon and shove them off while shouting, "How's that for a fiscal cliff, morons?" I would suggest assigning the privilege of yelling to Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the co-chairs of the defunct commission to solve the national debt problem, if it weren't for the fact they have grown hoarse warning us about this for two years.

A third proposal, made by someone who chooses to remain anonymous because he wasn't authorized to speak for a growing majority of us, is that we conduct a palace coup overthrowing the likes of Grover Norquist, the anti-tax obsessive who would be king, and reinstalling people who think for themselves to head of the Republican Party. Also, if we really wanted to do it up right, we could demand -- under penalty of expulsion -- that Barack Obama learn the complete lyrics of the national anthem beyond "soak the rich." All this is enough to make one wonder where Lyndon Johnson is when we need him. The master craftsman, who dragged domestic policy out of the dark ages with a strategic skill unmatched in modern history, probably is somewhere screaming the refrain for which he was famous -- "come let us reason together" -- while firmly twisting his opponents' arms behind them.

Clearly, the current occupant of the Oval Office has decided for the time being that compromise is not a viable way to run a government. He's taken the position that his recent victory now affords him the opportunity to stick it to all those he couldn't in the first four years. His motto for the next quadrennial seems to be "no more Mr. Nice Guy," while holding true leadership to a minimum.

We now hear that Republican conservatives might be willing to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone immediately and deal with the thornier issues earlier next year when they face another crisis about raising the debt limit. So does that mean they sanction the definition of insanity -- you know, repeating the same mistake over and over, hoping for a different result? Here's a fourth unsolicited suggestion. Everyone involved in this irresponsibility should be compelled en masse to see the new movie "Lincoln." It should give them a clue of what it takes to govern responsibly. My only quarrel with that proposal is that in saving the nation, the star of the show leaves us with the feeling that it was all worth it. Certainly, the actions of the current group we as voters foolishly elected, expecting rational behavior, have raised serious questions about that.

Those who follow apocalyptic religions may just be on the right track. There used to be a theory that the end of the world had been postponed indefinitely because of a shortage of trumpeters. That it seems has been dispelled at least as it pertains to the world as we Americans know it. The horn blowers on Capitol Hill are warming up and at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue the heralds already are on the front lawn playing one refrain: redistribute the wealth.

But relax! For 2 1/2 centuries, we have managed to meet the crises and survive. If history has any validity, we will muddle through on this one, too.

Dan K. Thomasson is the former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.

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