What’s a Fiscal Cliff?

So I’m trying to catch up on this whole "fiscal cliff" thing. What is it? Well, according to Wikipedia, the only information source that it’s completely safe to link to, the fiscal cliff is a combination of events that are scheduled to take place on Jan 1 2013, if no one intervenes. One is the end of Bush tax cuts. Another is a broad set of spending cuts. A third is something about new taxes related to Obamacare.

Why is it a cliff? Well, it’s not, but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) wrote a report warning that those things may cause a recession in 2013. Their actual wording is:

Under those fiscal conditions, which will occur under current law, growth in real (inflation-adjusted) GDP in calendar year 2013 will be just 0.5 percent, CBO expects—with the economy projected to contract at an annual rate of 1.3 percent in the first half of the year and expand at an annual rate of 2.3 percent in the second half. Given the pattern of past recessions as identified by the National Bureau of Economic Research, such a contraction in output in the first half of 2013 would probably be judged to be a recession.

(I note that the recession might turn into a—uh—procession?—in the second half of 2013.)

Two years ago, we had basically the same problem. Back then, Congress couldn’t agree on anything, except to move the deadline two years. Today, they still can’t agree on anything, except that something must be done, and it must be ideologically consistent with their own party and not the other.

Republicans want to extend the Bush tax cuts because rich people rock. Democrats want them to end because rich people suck. (That is a gross oversimplification of a situation that I don’t really care about.)

Nobody wants broad spending cuts, because it will almost certainly affect things they don’t want to affect. Both sides want targeted cuts in specific areas. Good luck with that in the current political climate.

Obviously, Republicans don’t want Obamacare taxes. Digging a little deeper, it seems that these taxes are going to be on people making $200,000 or more, the category that one side calls “a rich person” and the other side calls “a small business.” I call it “not me.”

Hi!

My name is Tom. Thanks for stopping by! I’m a veteran software developer in Richmond, Virginia. I have a fondness for writing, and this is one place where I do that. This blog mainly focuses on my life, technology, and current events. All of my opinions are entirely my own. Enjoy your stay!

New Theme

I installed a new theme, obviously. I like the simplicity of it, and it looks pretty good on mobile devices, so I think I will stick with it for a while. It’s called “Blaskan.”

Secession

I see that there are a bunch of petitions for states to secede (I like to link to Fox News stories so conservatives can’t complain about biased sources) from the Union after the president was re-elected. These make great sensational headlines which further push people into “us” and “them” camps. Of course, the first thing I thought, and the first thing any critical news consumer should have thought, was: It makes sense that there would be an increase in secession petitions after every election, so this is probably not news. I set out to prove my theory and provide a tiny bit of context to these stories. (You’re welcome, journalists.)

First of all, no state is really going to secede. These are symbolic gestures from a tiny fraction of Internet users seeking attention. I don’t even need to do any research to know that. It is in no way a vast avalanche grassroots uprising, or whatever people will try to say about it (I don’t know if they are saying that, but I have no doubt that someone will). The only reason we are even hearing about it is that you can digitally submit and sign these petitions over the Internet. If people had to actually go around to houses and convince people to get out a pen and sign a physical piece of paper, 50 states would not have secession petitions. (Once again proving my theory that instantaneous global communication in the hands of ordinary people will be the downfall of society.) So no worries there.

Second, a handful of states have had secessionist movements that have been around for a while, including Alaska, Hawaii, Texas, and, for some strange reason, Vermont.

Unfortunately I can’t find what I’m looking for, which is a nice list or graph showing a spike in petitions after every election, but that’s probably only because nobody has put that data on the Internet yet. Not even Data.gov, which has an unbelievably esoteric set of obscure data about the U.S., including—I am not making this—“U.S. Tomato Statistics.”

But what I did find was a handful of articles with at least some minor attempt at providing context:

Secession Petitions: What They Mean In The Context Of History. I love this quote from Dr. Sean Busick: “If you’re serious about the secession, you don’t ask the federal government’s permission.”

MSSU professor says secession petitions a positive sign. "It would take an act of a state legislature, in conjunction with a governor, in order to formally secede from the union." Internet petitions are not legally binding.

Secession petition signer says he doesn’t want Tennessee to secede. Sorry, but this quote made me laugh: “I think that we should be a united front, but we’re not. We have a president that divides.” It sounds like he thinks we are supposed to be a nation of Republicans, but somehow half of them were tricked into voting Democratic. And I continue to be baffled over how Congress always seems to escape any blame for their divisiveness.

Okay, well I’m bored of this research now. This is why I stopped delving into deep political issues … it is incredibly time-consuming to find “the truth” in politics, and nobody wants to listen to reason anyway. People actually enjoy arguing about these things.

Apocalypse

I have to admit I’m fairly surprised that Virginia went for the blue president, considering the general anti-Obama atmosphere around here. The only thing I can figure is that Virginia Republicans didn’t think Romney was red enough, so they stayed home. (I know they hated McCain, so I can only assume they didn’t like Romney either.)

I’m also very surprised that Virginia went for the blue senator. I have no explanation for that. (Admittedly, I didn’t follow that race much so I don’t know how it went. I assume it was a bloody massacre from start to finish.) I’m not at all surprised that the 7th district went for the red congressman, though. I’m not sure why they bother having congressional elections there.

I saw some frightening comments on Facebook this morning. Not threatening–I mean frightening in their complete lack of understanding of American government, and the sheer amount of kool-aid that had been guzzled. Critical thinking is a lost art.

Naturally, everyone hugged and gathered as one to say they would support the president despite their differences. (Well, I’m sure someone did, somewhere.) What does that mean exactly? What can one do to “support” a president? Send flowers? In a way, we’re legally obligated to support the president – in that if we don’t pay federal taxes, we go to jail. (Actually I guess that’s more like supporting Congress since they spend all the money.) If the president were to show up at my door and ask for a cup of sugar, of course I would give it to him, because there would probably be a dozen secret service agents pointing guns at my head.

So what does it mean for future presidential races when the polling is 100% accurate, as it seems to have been this time? If the polls show one candidate is certain to win a week before the election, what are we as citizens to do? What does the losing candidate do?

I say we toss out this election nonsense and skip right to the civil war to decide whether America should be red or blue. You know it’s headed there. Don’t deny it.

Falling Back Sucks

Why doesn’t anyone else understand that “fall back” is worse than “spring forward?” Everybody’s all like, “Woohoo! An extra hour of sleep! This is awesome!”

But you also get an extra hour of work. And you LOSE an hour of evening time. Come on people, get with the program.