Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff - 3 Reasons You Are Being Played

Because of my strategy background and who I give strategy advice to, a lot of people have reached out to me to ask about the fiscal cliff and the ramifications of going over it.

Here’s my reply:

I am not worried about the current fiscal cliff at all.

Note that I highlighted “current”.

In fact, not only am I not concerned about the current fiscal cliff, it actually serves some advantage to some people.

Unfortunately, there’s a high likelihood that you’re not one of them, which brings me to how the average person is being played by the cacophony of misinformation being presented by the media in recent weeks.

I think there are three reasons that show that the fiscal cliff is not what people believe it to be (or are being told it is).

Reason 1National Security

If the current fiscal cliff were truly as impactful in a negative way as lawmakers and the media are saying, then it goes without saying that our ability to thrive as a nation and as a culture would be in danger.

Any threats to America’s ability to thrive as a nation would be perceived as an opportunity by groups both inside and outside of America’s borders and would therefore increase the potential of threats from either source.

Any threats to the US as a whole fall under the realm of the Department of Homeland Security and therefore become a matter of national security.

And as we all know, anything that pertains to national security is so classified that even the lawmakers are not permitted to know the details.  Don’t believe me?  Read here what happened when Congressman Peter DeFazio attempted to understand Executive Directive 51, passed by President George W. Bush.

So if it were a real issue of national security, the details of the current fiscal cliff and the potential impact from it wouldn’t be in the press.


Reason 2 – Alleged Transparency

Many lawmakers are attempting to use the fiscal cliff negotiations as proof of the transparency of government and a demonstration of their commitment to the people.

If they were really committed to the American people instead of the selfish needs of themselves and their respective parties, they would spend less time in front of the camera and more time sitting with each other, doing what it takes to strike a deal.

Words to the media are merely a means of portraying their side’s alleged focus on a solution while the other side is not getting it done.

That’s a political intention that serves their own needs.

Bipartisan collaboration and results show commitment to find a solution.

That’s a leader-focused intention that serves the needs of the people.

I’d rather see them holed up at Camp David and be publicly silent for a few weeks, emerging exhausted but smiling that a deal had been struck for the American people.

But all we get is posturing – a waste of time and proof that they are not that worried about the alleged catastrophic fiscal cliff that is approaching.

And if they are not that worried, then why should we be?

Reason 3 – Consumption

Of the many things that can cause us to consume, including covering basic needs, mandatory purchases and the need to overindulge, other interesting reasons include:

a. Uncertainty

b. Fear

c. Scarcity or perception of it

Since our economy is built upon ever-increasing consumption, something we haven’t done very well in recent years, nothing helps consumption like whipping up fear that “all heck will break loose” if we don’t address the current fiscal cliff.

And so, when we are afraid, we tend to buy more of the things that aren’t really helping us or our situation (but which helps us feel better momentarily and helps the economy be stronger).  Record gun sales in America are an example of this.

Governments promote the thought that the health of society is measured by the financial numbers generated by consumption.  Increased consumption in turn is aided by encouraging fear, promoting uncertainty and embracing the standard practice of planned obsolescence.

It’s all a big shell game where much of what we buy we don’t need but we are caught in the trap that the more we buy, the more we want.

And an uncertain world causes us to not understand the difference between want and need.

Since we’re feeling a little uncertain, let’s go out and buy some more so that we will feel better – at least for today.

We’ve Already Gone Over the Fiscal Cliff

I have been referring to the fiscal cliff discussions in the media as the current fiscal cliff.  The current one will be “resolved” in a flourish of “look what we did for the people” and will be quickly forgotten until the next fiscal cliff manifests in a year or so with another catastrophic end promised if “we don’t do something”.

The truth is that we have long since gone over the real fiscal cliff, the point at which recovery is impossible without major austerity measures and major sacrifices.

The only way we can be saved now is to either:

1. Wipe out all the debt with a stroke of the pen (which actually instantly creates problems for powerful people and organizations who were carrying the debt as an asset, making them unhappy).  This is highly unlikely to happen.

2. Make severe choices in the areas of education, healthcare, Medicare, social services, defense, infrastructure and everything else that the nation needs more of and not less of.  This is also highly unlikely to happen.

And so the current fiscal cliff concerns don’t put us on the path of concern for the future of our children.

We are already on that path, a path known and understood by our government.

So …. to build up hype now for an event that’s really “old news” suggests we are being played by someone for some reason.

But we’ll leave that for the conspiracy theorists to chew on.

As a strategy guy, the questions that are important to me are:

1. Are we headed towards a catastrophic end, a very difficult one or will we suddenly “get it” and make crucial, impactful, positive choices that are ordinarily outside of normal human character?

And then ……

1a. If we are headed for a catastrophic end, how close to the brink are we willing to get to before it becomes inevitable or is it already inevitable?

1b. If we are headed for a very difficult end, what does it look like, how bad will it be and how should we be preparing for a transition through it?

1c. If we will suddenly live up to our own potential and do something proactive and collaborative on a global scale (instead of just talking about it or protecting our own needs at the sacrifice of others), what event could trigger such a transformation?

Governments around the world are busy figuring out answers to questions 1a and 1b (and how to protect the interests of the individuals that make up those governments).

I think we would do better to be answering 1c.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,



  1. My Choice is 1c, but unfortunately, 1c is also the only choice we will have after 1.a and 1.b have come and gone. That's describes perfectly the waning and waxing of civilizations past. We struggle to get our of deplorable conditions, we make it, we get comfortable, then complacent (1.a comes along)then we get lazy, (so 1.b comes up)that's when we become foolish not to say Stupid) and all hell breaks loose and we are back to struggling and the human spirit and our true potential shows up to pull us out... Rinse, repeat ad nauseam et ad vitam eternam. I guess that's what makes us the smartest and the dumbest animals of creation ;)The most Powerful and the weakest of creatures, the Human Paradox.

  2. The Human Paradox ... our ultimate legacy unless we straighten up.

    Anyone viewing us from off this world would find us entertaining at best, disappointing at worst.

  3. ... But fascinating the way a child is fascinated by the endless movement of ants coming and going in an ant hill... Hopefully a child without a water pistol or worse.

  4. Not as fascinating though if the ant has awareness of being observed but is uncertain of the intentions of the observer. :-)