The Common Good
February 2013

Whistling 'Dixie' Off the Fiscal Cliff

by Ed Spivey Jr. | February 2013

Let the healing begin (maybe next week).

SO HOW WAS your fall off the fiscal cliff? Did you drop straight to the bottom or bounce several times off jagged rocks on the way down, land in a bramble bush, and then stare back up at that annoying roadrunner? Ouch. (And why didn't the roadrunner jump off the cliff? Did he have a more reasonable approach to spending and taxation? Is he naturally more conciliatory with his opponents? Nah. He's just smarter about sudden dropoffs.)

I'm just asking because, as I write this, we're still heading toward that cliff, so I won't know if we drove off it, braked just short of it, or maybe stopped to ask directions from an old guy sitting by the side of the road in a tattered beach chair. "Yup, you keep going straight for a couple miles, then look for the coyote tracks."

There is no question that our nation is facing major fiscal imbalances—although, to be fair, our low wages are more than offset by high cholesterol. But hopefully the president—Barack "Whew!ssein" Obama—will have avoided the impending crisis by reaching a compromise with Republican leaders, although at press time it seemed he was drawing a clear line in the sand. Of course, that's easy to change because, you know, it's just sand.

But I've never cared for the cliff analogy. I think of a cliff as something you throw things off, like a stick you found, or a rock, or a Fox News pundit who is now talking positively about immigration reform. (Don't forget to make a wish before you make the toss.)

I've always preferred the railroad trestle analogy. You don't throw things off a trestle—a train bridge across a river sometimes hundreds of feet below—because you're too focused on not stepping between the ties and breaking a leg and then lying there helplessly until a train runs over you. As a youth I was dared to walk halfway across a trestle over the Wabash River and then back again before a train came. It never did, and my foot didn't get caught, but I walked off of that trestle pale, sweaty with fear, and determined to resolve any future legislative disagreements quickly and on a nonpartisan basis. The takeaway for our nation is simple: Instead of hanging around trestles with taunting teenagers, just stay home and watch afternoon cartoons.

THE U.S. NEEDS to get its economic house in order while there's still a house, since at last count more than 20 states had petitioned to secede. Make that 30 states. In fact the petitions are coming in so fast that Wolf Blitzer is having difficulty projecting the final tally, something he loves to do but which, ironically, nobody ever once asked for.

For a state to officially secede, it must first gather at least 25,000 signatures, an easy task outside any Walmart in the early morning hours of Black Friday. (In exchange for something warm to drink, those people will sign anything.) Signatories must then learn all the verses of "Dixie" and correctly identify which side won in Gone with the Wind.

Although it's disconcerting that thousands of people want to sever ties with their fellow citizens, the good news is that their departure would actually help the budget, since most of these states receive millions of dollars more in federal aid than they contribute in federal taxes. It's going to take everyone pitching in to solve our fiscal problems, so if a balanced approach requires pushing Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas into the sea, I'm all for it. (Landlocked states may require professional movers.)

Many of these states might reconsider if President Obama is simply removed from office in a timely manner. This is definitely the plan of the Conservative Majority Fund, which has launched a campaign of robocalls for his impeachment and is accusing him of "high crimes and misdemeanors." (Question: If a man commits high crimes while in the Oval Office, shouldn't we give him a pass on the misdemeanors? I mean, let the guy keep the Evian he's been sneaking out of the limo, for goshsakes.)

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

Image: Fiscal cliff people falling, trekandshoot / Shutterstock.com

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