New Year's Fiscal Cliff Hangover

It's Jan. 1, and it's no wonder that things are at a fiscal cliff hangover. Just what is the fiscal cliff? Even America's best and brightest, baby boomers, journalists, academicians and politicians, from Barnard to Baruch, cannot fully comprehend what's going on. Considering the art of rock climbing and sport of cliff scaling, we might have better fiscal sports analysis from ESPN than CNN. We know it's got something to do with debt and taxes. Just what we're not clear.

As if things haven't been rocky enough in Congress, lately it's become even craggier on the cliffs of impending year-end financial doom. Too many pundits getting too bogged down in too much talk of spending cuts and debt-pocalypse.

Yup. It couldn't get much worse in the Land of Budget, Debt Ceilings and Taxes. Not to mention the fiscal vocabulary gobbledygook. Who can pronounce the terms, much less understand them? Frustrated bloggers have resorted to using toys, LEGOs and Monopoly money to explain this oh-so-complicated issue. Maybe it's up to the writers and musicians to decipher it. After all, they've got that glimmer of fiscal insight... that artistic edge... right on the edge of a fiscal cliff.

Recently I've noticed how many of our literary and cultural cliff references echo the fiscal cliff references to these jagged economic times. The parallels are sharply defined:

1) Emily Brontë's character of Heathcliff is a tortured romantic soul , whose passions destroy himself and those around him. The fiscal cliff is also quite tortured and enigmatic, a shroud of economic cloudiness, cloaked in layers of abstract theory, that may also self-destruct or destroy those around it. And we sure don't have to explain the relationship between Wuthering Heights, slippery slopes, and steep cliff angles, fiscal or otherwise.

2) Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe is bespectacled and enchanting; the fiscal clad cliff is erudite, theoretical and demands at least an Ivy League degree to fathom what's going on at any one time. The fiscal cliff is pretty much the scholarly equivalent of the Chamber of Secrets. President Obama might just need a magic wand to implement the fiscal cliff before Professor Quirrell 's council of Economic Advisers turns things completely to dust.

3) The White Cliffs of Dover on the English coastline appear easily crumble-able; ditto the fiscal cliff. The white cliffs have a striking facade due to their chalky composition. Many an economics professor has used a good blackboard and chalk to give a lecture-demo on the fiscal cliff. The Dover cliffs are highlighted by streaks of black flint. Things Dover-ish and fiscal-ish may seem black and white, but they're often charcoal gray and murky. Just as the cliffs of Dover form a symbolic guard against foreign invasion, the fiscal cliffs form a guard against financial intervention.

Congress does tend to exaggerate, though, and the image of going "over the cliff" is a bit media-hyped, since even if no one reaches a deal by year end, it doesn't mean a total recession or crash is imminent.

4) Cliff Burton, bassist from Metallica, was a heavy metal dude. The fiscal cliff, a rather heavy duty concept, talks of precious metals, rare coins, gold sales, and bullion investing; Cliff Burton's famous "To Live is to Die" lyrics, which in fiscal cliff words might be "To Live is to Die Debt-free" -- I can even see the glints and sparks of shiny metal popping off the pages of the congressional report.

5) Clifford is a big red dog. The fiscal Clifford is a big red flag -- warning of deficits and disasters to come. Clifford, 20 feet tall, was tiny when adopted, then grew, expanded and got huge. He's got big ideas. The fiscal Clifford is also quite large, looming over the cliff horizons. Pray for a fiscal Fido miracle.

6) Cliff Clavin, our friendly postal worker, was a regular cliff hanger-outer at the Cheers bar, speaking pearls of wisdom like "there's a fine line between gardening and madness." Fiscal cliff talks include cuts in postal employees' take-home pay, directly affecting our friend Cliff Clavin and all our mail. Perhaps there's a fine line between fiscal fine-tuning and madness.

7) And finally, for those of us who just simply can't seem to juggle fiscal cliff theories with the Nutcracker and Dostoevsky, we've arranged for the Fiscal CliffsNotes. Or better yet, Fiscal Cliff for Dummies.