‘Fiscal cliff’ goes by many different names

Brian Brown, ReporterIn reporting on the “fiscal cliff,” and by using that descriptor, is the media overstepping its role and doing more harm than good? Perhaps. As it turns out, the cliff goes by a variety of names, including fiscal obstacle course, fiscal slope, fiscal whatchamacallit, debtpocalypse, and my favorite: Fiscal Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Should lawmakers in Washington not be able to agree on how to mitigate the automatic federal spending cuts and tax increases slated to go into effect in January, the nation is expected to go over the much-hyped fiscal cliff, a term coined by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, according to The New York Times. The result of cuts in spending and tax hikes – valued at around $600 billion – is that the economy would contract by 1.3 percent in the first half of 2013, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

In fact, I should acknowledge I referred to the country’s so-called fiscal cliff in the Dec. 3 story “Business owners to combat looming tax hikes.” I felt it was necessary given the attention the term has received. A quick Google search pulls up 54 million results.

I raise the issue because it has occurred to me that it was only about three years ago that the Tea Party movement had garnered at least as much attention as the fiscal cliff now does for protesting excessive government deficit spending. And despite the scary sounding moniker, not everyone thinks falling off the looming edge is such a terrible thing. Business and investment icon Warren Buffett has suggested increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans could bring fiscal balance.

So, it is really a cliff? I don’t know, but by saying we approach a cliff, mainstream media seems to have created a heightened level of uncertainty about the national economy. And in my mind, it could be making the problem worse. The role of the press should be to educate and inform, not instill fear.

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