Fiscal: def. Relating to government expenditures, revenues and debt
Cliff: def. A very steep, vertical or overhanging face of rock
 

Some of you may remember the movie "A Rebel Without a Cause" starring James Dean and Natalie Wood. While the film’s portrayal of out-of-control middle-class youth shocked 1950s audiences, most of us would now find the young protagonists’ anti-social behavior as pretty tame fare – apart from one scene that is.

In that scene, Dean’s Jim is challenged by a bully, Buzz, to a "chicken run," racing stolen cars towards an abyss. The first one to leap from his car is a chicken.

A very young and perky Natalie Wood, in full poodle skirt mode and standing between the two cars with a gaggle of peers looking on, waves them to a roaring start. Off they go side by side, each furtively sneaking anxious glances toward the other as their cars accelerate toward their inevitable launch into the darkness.

Jim leaps from his car a second before it sails over the cliff. Buzz’s left sleeve gets caught in the driver-side door handle and despite a frantic effort, he’s unable to free it. The car and the chicken run winner, Buzz, plunge through the darkness to the rocky canyon below and disappear in a grinding fireball.

Would you consider this particular scene to be an apt analogy to the "fiscal cliff" that our economy seems to be approaching?

Given the incredible debt our nation began piling up as a result of two wars and tranfusions of hundreds of billions of stimulus dollars to prop up the economy, a debt that has mushroomed these past several years and will continue to rise at an alarming rate, there appears to be an economic catastrophe somewhere over the horizon.

Indeed, unless our elected officials in Washington start cooperating and come up with rational strategies to get our nation’s finances under control, our economy seems almost destined to crash and burn. And, speaking of the debt, how many of us working day-to-day for our daily bread can even comprehend its enormity?

Let’s start with a trillion dollars and work from there. A bit of online research suggests that if you stacked 1 trillion dollar bills on top of each other, they would go 63,133,333 miles into the sky. For another perspective, consider that 1 million times 1 million equals 1 trillion.

But, if the national debt were just a trillion dollars, there’d be no need to talk about a fiscal cliff. We’d be in fine shape.

What we’re facing is a national debt at least 15 times that and unfunded liabilities (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc.) many, many, many times greater than that, say economists. Meanwhile, our elected officials in Washington, engaged in a bitterly partisan game of chicken are steering us to an economic abyss.

So, what can we do? I wish I knew in addition to going to the polls next month and considering each national candidate carefully. Scrutinize each candidate for evidence of the same dollars-and-cents sanity that all of us must use to keep businesses and our households from going bust. Somehow we must find a way to hold them accountable.

Start by voting with your head Nov. 6. This election is shaping up to be extremely close.

About the author: Ron Hall is editor-in-chief of Turf magazine and has been reporting on the green industry for more than 28 years.