Press Talk: Son of Fiscal Cliff is here!

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 

I was hanging in the newsroom (what, you thought I should be sipping a cup of joe at Latte Da?) when we started yacking about this sequester thing.

First, what the heck is up with the word "sequester," anyway?

Originally, sequester was a legal term referring to the act of valuable property being taken into custody by the court.

The court would do this because of some dispute over ownership. Sequestration would keep it safe until the dispute was resolved.

Congress decided to hijack the term for this neat little procedure we're going through now.

In other words, "we're sequestering all this money until the dispute of spending and taxes gets resolved."

And — to add a little cream to your latte — if it doesn't get resolved, automatic cuts go into place.

The newsroom discussion centered on why the heck we're using the word "sequester" in the first place. So we searched for a better term.

One reporter hit a home run.

"Let's call it 'Son of Fiscal Cliff.'"

Sweet! I'm all in.

• • •

Newspapers have been working this Son of Fiscal Cliff pretty hard, and we're no exception.

On Friday, we had a story on how local agencies will be affected if all these budget cuts come into play. It was an excellent story and showed just how many places the pain will be felt.

But one of the underlying principles of this entire mess is rarely dealt with:

We're spending way more money than we have.

This is pretty basic economics we're talking about. You and I deal with it every day. Let me say it another way:

We get an income, we spend money and we can't spend more money than we have.

The federal government has looked the other way on this one fundamental truth, well almost forever.

The result? A $16 trillion debt. $16,433,791,850,294, if you want to be exact.

Don't even try to comprehend how much that is. But as a visual, think of this:

If you stacked hundred-dollar bills 11 feet high and 13 feet wide, they'd reach from your house to state Rep. Jim Moeller's front door!

(Who loves ya, brother? Ya know I'm just teasin'. You can beat me up at our coffee this morning.)

So who's to blame for all of this? Mostly everyone, but especially us common folk who keep voting people into office who keep thinking this business is OK.

There is a very real truth about Son of Fiscal Cliff. A day of reckoning will come. And that will bring pain. Lots of it.

Either taxpayers will have to dig deeper into their already-empty pockets, or people who have been benefiting from all this funny money will suddenly be cut off.

Me? I've always believed the wealthy should pay more in taxes. But that won't amount to more than a blemish on a baby's rear end. So I've also believed that we simply have to reduce spending.

The ideal would be to do this all in an orderly fashion.

Otherwise it’s going to be one Son of a Fiscal Cliff to deal with. I hope to see you at the bottom. But not too soon.

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian's editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505, http://twitter.com/lounews or lou.brancaccio@columbian.com.