The “fiscal cliff” doesn’t exist.

It’s a phrase you’ve probably heard unless you’ve been specifically working to avoid it, referring to the expiration of the tax breaks George W. Bush gave the highest income bracket and a line of spending cuts that were included as a part of the package—theoretically to help spur bipartisanship in the legislature, but more likely just thrown in for ratings.

They call it a cliff because if we go over it, the economy might go into a recession.

But it’s not real. It’s an illusion.

Like every other issue brought up during the presidential election was an illusion.

Like every economic prediction is an illusion.

Like Benghazi. Like Petraeus. Stories trumped up to undercut the president’s claim to a mandate after the election. They’re no more real than any of this.

All the debate about the fiscal cliff proves is how much rich people don’t want to pay taxes. Because that’s the heart of it—the tax increase on the wealthiest Americans—back to the levels of the Clinton era. You remember the Clinton era? Yeah, it was Reaganomics run rampant, corporate deregulation gone wild like Mormon girls on spring break. Nowadays they talk about it like Barack Obama is nationalizing the banks.

Which would be awesome.

But he’s not doing that. He’s trying to put taxes where they were before the country went bankrupt so the 15 or 20 people who think they deserve to own the nation could get that much closer to actually doing so. It’s not a catastrophe of partisanship. Both parties are on the same side. Have you ever seen Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell side by side? They’re the same person! It’s just that rich people don’t want to pay more taxes.

And when you control the conversation, the public dialogue, you can make it about whatever you want. So the news doesn’t report the simple fact that rich people don’t want to pay more taxes. The news reports that congress can’t get anything done—as though government should be expected to work as quickly as your 4G when enacting laws expected to apply for generations—or that the president is a devil sent to destroy the white man’s culture, or that it’s a fiscal cliff and if we go over it, everyone’s going to get fired and that the unfortunate survivors will have to eat the flesh of the lucky dead, etc. Because that’s what happens when you make rich people pay taxes. The world ends.

Real quick, here’s why it doesn’t matter: Because people that rich don’t make their money from a salary, and so their income tax rate is irrelevant. It’s the capital gains tax that needs to go up—well, actually it’s both, but that’s a pipedream if e’er there was one—the tax on money garnered through interest. Stocks, trust funds, inheritances; all that money that’s not at all earned but that makes up a huge part of the illusion of our economy anyway. If Obama was really the big government stooge he’s made out to be, that’s what he’d go after. But he’s not that. He’s a right-center president who every six weeks or so dogwhistles progressive rhetoric to keep his base in tow. So capital gains get left alone.

Whatever. The fiscal cliff will be a thing for the next couple weeks as long as the ratings hold, then they’ll extend the tax cuts again, push back the spending cuts, it’ll be the holidays, New Year’s, ball drop, drunk, so on. It’ll be the next “we don’t like the government” story. And interesting stuff happens elsewhere—Egypt, or Burma, or research facilities where they’re making new kinds of lightbulbs—but not here. Here it’s the shitshow, and the shitshow’s always on. They sell commercials.

JJ Koczan

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