Disclosure: In an attempt to lighten (and possibly illuminate) the fiscal-policy debate rearing its frightful (and frightfully dull) head in Washington, we humbly present a Fiscal-Cliff Analogy of the Day, chock-full of mixed metaphors.
The Fiscal Cliff Talks as 1994's 'Speed,' Starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock
Driving the federal government is like driving a city bus, which, according to Sandra Bullock's character, is like driving a really big Pinto: The steering is unwieldy, and sometimes a timing mechanism will make it explode if it goes under 55 mph and no compromise is reached by Dec. 31. John Boehner (Keanu Reeves) and President Obama (Sandra Bullock) must now work together to avert disaster in this epic thrill ride through Washington, D.C.!
Boehner (Reeves) must furiously seek to defuse the fiscal bomb, spending a lot of time on the phone with Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist (Dennis Hopper) who has devilishly strapped his Taxpayer Protection Pledge to the underside of the legislative branch. (It runs on a gold watch he received for his service to Ronald Reagan, and when Boehner peers through Congress's open floorboard, he sees his tormentor is one of his own. Dennis Hopper was also a cop in the movie, remember.) Obama (Bullock) finds himself ostensibly in the driver's seat, but not really: All he can do is keep his hands on the country's wheel, offering encouragement and/or pressure as Boehner scrambles for votes.
Of course, Grover Norquist is not a crazed movie villain, Obama is not an Acadamy-Award-winning actress, and there is no literal bomb. They're all just characters and plot elements in the drama, real-world fiscal or fictional bus. And Boehner could just as easily be Bullock: With Bush's cuts set to expire on their own, he finds himself in a position not entirely of his making, as Obama was the one who picked a political fight over expiring tax-cuts for the wealthy, waging a years-long public campaign over it.
At some point, Obama and Boehner may find a way to abandon the bus, passing a continuing resolution to fund the government on a temporary basis if they can't defuse the bomb. The U.S. economy could improbably jump over an incomplete overpass and finally explode at an airport; Obama and Boehner won't be on the bus anymore, but they won't really have solved the problem, either. They'll just wind up on a subway train, headed for doom again.
Polling has supported Obama's vision of taxes on the wealthy, so you could say Boehner is the hostage here. But, according to economists, the real hostage is America's financial health. Keanu Reeves would say, "Shoot the hostage." Will Obama or Boehner make that gamble? We'll find out, one way or another.
Get ready for rush hour! Lets hope, at the end of the day, nobody turns into Sad Keanu.