Hey, have you heard about this thing called "the fiscal cliff"? Actually, the better question is: Have you heard about anything except the fiscal cliff? Nine months ago, the term had not even entered the media lexicon. And now it's suddenly everywhere. But whether or not we go over the fiscal cliff, around the fiscal curve, or down the fiscal slope remains to be seen, but one thing is already certain: Our political debate has already gone over the cliff. Why can't we channel some of the ingenuity we clearly possess for producing manufactured crises -- and giving them catchy names -- into solving our real problems? The debate the country should be locked in right now isn't about the fiscal cliff and the deficit but about the growth cliff and the 20 million unemployed or underemployed Americans. The only way we're going to grow the economy is if we grow the debate about the economy.
In his budget proposal, the president offered no cuts in Social Security, and only $400 billion over 10 years in Medicare and other savings, money that can be gotten by allowing Medicare to negotiate bulk discounts with drug companies and other administrative savings, without raising the eligibility age or otherwise cutting into benefits. The Republicans, meanwhile are revealed as the people who would push the economy off a cliff in order to fight for tax breaks for the richest 2 percent; the party that would rather cut benefits in Medicare and Social Security than have the wealthy pay even the relatively low tax rates of the Clinton years. It was Winston Churchill who said that you can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after they've tried everything else. Obama, belatedly, is doing the right thing.