Look, up in the sky! It's a "fiscal cliff." It's a slope. It's an obstacle course.
The truth is, it doesn't really matter what we call it. It only matters what it is: a lamebrained package of economic depressants bearing down on a lame-duck Congress.
This hastily concocted mix of across-the-board spending cuts and tax increases for all was supposed to force Congress to get serious about dealing with our nation's debt and deficit. The question everyone's asking is this: On whose backs should we balance the federal budget? One side wants higher taxes; the other wants spending cuts. And while that debate rages, the right question is being ignored: Why are we worried about balancing the federal budget at all?
You read that right. We may strive to balance our work and leisure time and to eat a balanced diet. Our Constitution enshrines the principle of balance among our three branches of government. And when it comes to our personal finances, we know that the family checkbook must balance.
So when we hear that the federal government hasn't balanced its books in more than a decade, it seems sensible to demand a return to that kind of balance in Washington as well. But that would actually be a huge mistake.