After spending every waking minute following the news and its nuances from April through the conclusion of the election season, I was sick and tired of reading the news -- especially when most of what I had read seemed to hold little resemblance to my daily observations. So I began, throughout November, taking just a quick glance at the world, local and national news and spending most of my newspaper time with the comics and the sports pages.
As December crept in, however, I began to take longer and longer and longer peeks at the paper each morning and this week, during a two-hour flight to Houston, which was turned into three because of weather delays, I dove back into the deep water and caught up with the wars and rumors of war in the Middle East and the so-called "fiscal cliff" that our nation's economy seems to be heading toward at breakneck speed.
I would have done better to stick to the funny papers.
I wonder who coined the term "fiscal cliff" to begin with? Mark Bradley claims to have been the first to call Steve Spurrier the "Evil Genius," and I am absolutely certain that I was the first person to combine Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall's names into "Gurshall" in print, but I don't know where the term fiscal cliff originated. It probably came from the same person that guaranteed me a Romney landslide.
All I know is that neither party really seems to want to do a whole lot about solving our financial woes. If they did, something would have been done by now. Where's Henry Clay when you need a good compromise brokered? I know this, though: Nothing good ever came of going over a cliff.
Think about that for a moment or two. Remember the old serial westerns? The posse would be riding full tilt after the bad guys, who would be stirring up such a cloud of dust that the chasers couldn't see a foot in front of their faces. Then the ones in the black hats would turn down a blind canyon, leading the posse headed right toward a cliff -- and then you'd have to come back the next Saturday to find out if they stopped in time.
What we are going through right now isn't much different than that, really. There's a huge cloud of dust being kicked up -- along with something else those old cowpokes had to shovel a right smart amount of -- but the folks who are going to be hurt if this particular cliff is not avoidable are Mr. and Mrs. Everyman, the American taxpayers.
Back in the days of the buffalo there were places in the Great Plains where Indians would chase the buffalo herds over rocky cliffs, causing hundreds of the great beasts to tumble to their deaths. That's not the reason the American bison almost became extinct, but it didn't help. There are places you can go in North Dakota, Montana and the Canadian Rockies and see the skeletal remains of thousands of the great beasts. I wonder which buzzards will pick over the bones of the United States of America when we finally spend ourselves into oblivion.
I'll tell you another place you used to see cliffs -- the Roadrunner cartoons. Beep, beep!
Wile E. Coyote would always be chasing the roadrunner across the New Mexico desert and then the roadrunner would just scoot off the end of a cliff -- but always come up with a parachute or some way to break the fall, and the coyote would always run on air for a few feet, then realize there was nothing supporting him and crash to the ground.
That's exactly, I am afraid, what we are about to experience. We are going to run willy-nilly into 2013 and then look down and realize that we haven't been on sound economic support for a long, long time. Just like Wile E. Coyote, we are going to wind up in a heap at the bottom of a very high and rocky ledge. The fall won't hurt us but the landing is going to be a booger bear, I'm afraid.
One of the papers I read on my flight to Texas said that the schools would be one of the institutions to suffer the most. Give me a break! Do people realize how much educational spending has already been cut? Some counties are already down to 160 days instead of 180 -- and I don't care if you do add a few minutes to each class to make the instructional time work out mathematically -- you cannot teach a child as much in 160 days as you can in 180. It might work in theory, but kids don't go to class in theory, they go in schools that are being shafted already.
The taxpayers cannot afford an elimination of the Bush tax cuts, either. Most folks don't take home enough now and there are more and more people that the taxpayers have to support these days. Unless we all want to wind up at the bottom of some canyon, Congress had better decide to act like grown men and women and quit pretending that they are watching cartoons and western serials.
Just remember, that cliff looked like fun to Thelma and Louise at the time, but we didn't see anything else of Thelma or Louise.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.