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Fiscal Cliff & Climate Cliff

In what can only be described as asinine and embarrassing for how long it took, the United States Congress has finally produced a plan to avert the Congress-created “fiscal cliff.”

If doing the bare minimum of their job, i.e. paying the country’s bills, is too difficult and too much of a burden for the elected representatives of the American citizenry, then what can be expected of them when an issue which requires more than the minimum effort comes up?

The cynical answer is “nothing,” or “no expectations,” but that is letting the Congress, the people that were chosen by their constituents, off the hook way too easily.

Instead, there should always be the highest expectations of these people: they should be expected to be able to solve financial crises of varying degrees; they should be expected to be able to negotiate foreign and domestic policies without being persuaded by external influences; they should be expected to never forget who their real bosses are—the American people.

Given those proper expectations, action to combat the increasing and looming threat of climate change should be an easy decision to make, yet the precedents that the “fiscal cliff” negotiations set do not inspire confidence in the American government.

The bipartisan deal which was presented and passed in the Senate is a compromise in the truest sense of the word, and as is frequent with compromise, many of the toughest decisions have been avoided. While the deal isn’t terrible from an environmental or progressive perspective—it extends the wind tax credit, favors Democrats’ priorities and imposes a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans—it still has the potential to cripple the Obama administration, and subsequently all the people who supported him.

As Nobel-award-winning-economist Paul Krugman points out, “If Obama stands his ground in that confrontation [in the debt ceiling fight], this deal won’t look bad in retrospect. If he doesn’t, yesterday will be seen as the day he began throwing away his presidency and the hopes of everyone who supported him.”

Action against climate change is dire, and it will need Congressional support, so the country better hope and rise to the challenge, because the government may not do it by itself.

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