Fiscal Cliff: Much Ado About Little



My Sunday Washington Post Business Section column is out. This morning, we look at How important is the fiscal cliff for investors? Hint: Not very. I wanted to call it “Why all the Angst about the Fiscal Cliff is a Bullshit Media Creation” but the Washington Post has some sort of standards which disallows that language.

The column was motivated by a few factors:

1) The manufactured nature of this faux crisis; The Columbia Journalism Review blamed the entire construct on a CNBC push.

2) The Google Trend chart we showed a few weeks ago, revealing how this popped up immediately after the election. This is purely political theater performed by the election’s losers. Had Mitt Romney won the election, we never would have heard any of this.

3) The utterly disingenuous nature of the CEOs pushing for this — somehow, these same CEOs have managed to massively underfund their own company’s pensions, a far bigger potential crisis for both the economy and investors.

Suffice it to say that I think this entire issue is a purely fabricated display of childish foolishness, a national embarrassment.

Here’s an excerpt from the column:

“Whenever the media obsess over a potential crisis, history teaches us that it is most likely to be overwrought hype. Recall the Y2k frenzy as Exhibit 1 in The People v. Really Bad Media prosecution.

What does the fiscal cliff mean to investors?

Let’s start with a definition: The term refers to the deal that Congress made in late 2011 to temporarily resolve the debt ceiling debate. The “sequestration,” as it is known, calls for three elements: tax increases, spending cuts and an increase to the payroll tax (FICA). The Washington Post’s Wonkblog has run the numbers and finds “$180 billion from income tax hikes, $120 billion in revenue from the payroll tax, $110 billion from the sequester’s automatic spending cuts and $160 billion from expiring tax breaks and other programs.”

That is a not-insignificant amount of money, but it is hardly the end of the world. To put this into context, it is a little less than the TARP bailout for Wall Street in 2009 and somewhat less than the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, President Obama’s stimulus package. An educated guess puts this at about $600 billion to $700 billion out of a $15 trillion U.S. economy. I’d ballpark that at about 4 percent of the GDP, or 0.50 percent of the forecasted GDP growth of 2 percent for calendar year 2013.”>

The rest of the piece looks at what is driving markets and investors.


Note: If any one can send me a PDF of the print edition (not the regular online version is would be appreciated.


How important is the fiscal cliff for investors? Hint: Not very
Barry Ritholtz
Washington Post, December 2 2012

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