Congress Looking Like Wile E. Coyote on the Fiscal Cliff Debate

Barry Anderson used to compare the fiscal cliff to “Thelma and Louise.” Now, he’s taken to using Wile E. Coyote as the metaphor to illustrate what is going on in Washington.

“If you remember Wile E Coyote, he’d go off the cliff, he’d have a look on his face but those legs would keep on turning,” Anderson, deputy director of the National Governors Association, said during the CSG Intergovernmental Affairs meeting Sunday. “But the important thing is he wouldn’t fall until he looked down. I think that’s what congress is looking at now. They can go off the cliff, but they won’t fall because they won’t look down.”

Anderson said it would take more than two months past the Dec. 31 deadline for the negative impacts to begin to take effect, but going over the fiscal cliff would not be good for anyone.

He initially thought that it would be good.

“I’m a longtime middle of the road, not R or D, very much interested in our fiscal sustainability and I saw this and I said good,” he said. “Washington only responds to budget matters when they see a crisis, and I’ve never seen a crisis as big as this. This will finally force us to recognize the difficult situation.”

The fiscal cliff encompasses a number of elements, including the sequester that came as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Other parts of it are the payroll tax holiday and the debt limit, as well as the expiration of the TANF program authorization and the alternative minimum tax increases.

But all of those things will take some time before they take effect.

“There is this idea that we can go off the cliff and the real pain won’t occur right away,” Anderson said.

That’s where Wile E. Coyote comes in, he said. Members of Congress on both sides are basically using threats of going off the cliff to get what they want in a deal.

“I think that’s a pretty dangerous view.”