This is why we can't have nice things. When NBC News, along with all of the other main network channels, insist on overdramatizing the "fiscal cliff" -- really, let's just call it what it is: a fiscal bluff -- and making it sound like Armageddon is coming on January 1, 2013, well ... it's very difficult to outshout them.
It's also easy enough to get poll results that back up the idiocy put forward by people like the FixTheDebt gang, which is really just a stealth effort to kill Medicare and Social Security altogether.
An overwhelming majority of Americans want Congress and the Obama White House to reach a deal featuring both tax increases and spending cuts to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, according to the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
In fact, majorities of Democrats, Republicans and political independents each support such a deal.
Yet respondents are split over whether any kind of agreement can be reached, and nearly seven in 10 believe that the coming year will feature Democrats and Republicans in Congress showing little willingness to come to an agreement on important matters.
After looking at the demographic breakdown and the way the questions are framed, I understand how they reached the conclusion they did. It's one thing to poll around a person and/or candidate, and other to poll around issues. The poll is heavily weighted toward white voters, with almost no Hispanic or African-Americans, and the questions around the tax rates and sequester are phrased in a way that people wouldn't necessarily equate to "expiration of the Bush tax rates" or agreement on the budget issues.
They go on to say that a majority of Americans think "something" is better than nothing. Which is to say that people are really just sick of the ever-lovin' stalling and gamesmanship, as I see it. A majority of Americans don't realize that doing nothing is actually the very best thing to do.
I repeat. Doing nothing actually works best for everyone. As long as Republicans think they've got leverage on tax rates, they'll continue to hold Medicare and Medicaid hostage in order to keep the lower rates on the highest earners. But on January 1st, that leverage goes away without anyone doing anything, and while it's equally true that rates go up on the rest of us, I maintain that progressives have a far stronger position to negotiate on behalf of the middle class without touching the social safety net.
I really want the media to understand that we really do not have to throw the budget in the blender with tax reform. They can, and should, remain separate. In fact, until the question of revenues is settled, it's hard to see how they can discuss the budget at all.
Republicans love to muddy up the waters by tossing everything in, mixing it up, conflating a few things, and baking in a few lies. It's really important that clarity be part of this debate by simply separating the two issues.
As for the debt ceiling, if Republicans hold that hostage they will pay the price (along with the rest of us).
What we don't need: Polls pushing for a Grand Bargain. What we do need: clarity.
The cliff is not a cliff, it's a bluff with a shallow slope. It's perfectly okay to drive down the slope and arrive safely.