The Norman Transcript

Columns

December 13, 2012

There must be a way to avoid the cliff

NORMAN — You no doubt have heard about the impending financial crisis. Some news programs are actually showing a ticking clock with a countdown in days, hours and minutes until the end of the year.

So what should we make of all this and what will happen? Progress on the negotiations between the Republicans and the Democrats does not seem to be going well and the deadline is looming. In the absence of some kind of agreement, on Jan. 1 tax rates go back to 2001 levels, defense budget cuts automatically kick in and at least a $600 billion reduction in economic activity will take place in 2013. For an economy that is barely limping along anyway, that almost certainly means recession in 2013.

The apparent lack of progress in the fiscal cliff talks is being described as a farce and a disgrace by some; by others, it’s a poker game where participants are simply not exposing their cards in the early stage of the game.

It’s most definitely not a poker game, a situation where one winner takes it all and the other side loses it all. Nor is it a hopeless farce being played out by fools who don’t know what they’re doing. There is no group more highly trained and experienced in the art of negotiating than politicians. Legislation can only be passed or amended through negotiations and compromises that result in enough votes from both sides.

The foolish part is that it has taken them so long to address the situation, leaving them so little time to get through the process. The risk is they don’t have time for the normal process and go past the deadline, or that one side becomes more desperate for a deal than the other and grabs at the last offer.

A good business deal hammered out in negotiations is considered to be one that does not have a winner and a loser, but one that is fair and acceptable to both sides. And that is certainly what is needed from the fiscal cliff negotiations if both sides are expected to work more closely together for the good of the country.

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