The Pointlessness of Today's Fiscal Cliff Drama

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 30 2012 5:40 PM

The Pointlessness of Today's Fiscal Cliff Drama

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WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 16: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (2nd L) speaks while U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), U.S. (L), U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD)(3rd-L), U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)( 2nd-R) and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) listen during a news conference on Capitol Hill November 16, 2010 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

I'm feeling a bit under the weather and it's making me cranky, but it's worth pointing out that at this late hour the fiscal cliff drama has become totally pointless.

Once upon a time, the idea—for better or for worse—was that the threat of the fiscal cliff might inspire congress to reach a "grand bargain" that reduced the budget deficit by several trillion dollars relative to current policy even while providing the economy with much-needed short-term stimulus. But that bargain already fell apart. It's dead. Instead, the back-and-forth over the weekend is about a "small" deal—a deal that would have some-but-not-all of the Bush tax cuts expire and maybe delay implementation of the budget sequester pending a further agreement or maybe not.

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That's all great stuff to talk about, but when you think about it Congress could easily just tell everyone to go home, watch the Redskins game, enjoy their New Year's Eve plans, and revisit this on Wednesday. If there's not going to be a grand bargain (and there's not) then it really doesn't matter whether we go "over the cliff" or not. Congress can pass a tax cut bill on Wedesday using the new baseline just as easily as they can pass a tax hike bill on Monday using the old baseline. Obama can delay implementation of the sequester administratively pending ongoing negotiations.

Continuing to burn the midnight oil at this late hour is just ruining people's weekends for no good reason.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.