At the eleventh hour in the 2013 fiscal cliff negotiations we once again watch a dysfunctional congress with seemingly no clue of how to handle real-world problems or do much other than look over their shoulders at possible challenges in the next election. Negotiations continue but it is increasingly becoming apparent that the odds of reaching a complete settlement before the midnight tonight deadline is upon us. Logical near-term outcome appears to be a “kick the can down the road” approach in which some temporary agreement will await a more intensive agreement after several months
“The Cliff” has been the focus of most leading news articles in print and TV broadcasts for the final weeks of 2012, overshadowing even gun control issues that arose in the immediate time after the Connecticut school shooting left 20 innocent children and 7 adults dead. “The Cliff” has occupied so much prime-time news that the gun control issues have mostly lost their emotional impact that could have resulted in some action in the first few weeks after the December 14, 2012, slaying.
Gun control is an emotional issue with highly polarized opinions. Americans and our guns can be compared to Americans and our SUV's. In both cases those who have them love them and will not even consider giving them up for any reason. But, those who oppose them hate them in both cases and they see no rational reason for them to exist in the first place.
Assault rifles with large capacity magazines catch the brunt of gun opponents' wrath and whether intended or not, exaggerated news statements focus our attention on those weapons. A most recent example of the assault rifle exaggeration is the numerous news stories of how the Connecticut gunman walked the halls of the elementary school shooting children at random with his assault rifle. The DHS morning briefing for the morning of December 15, 2012, states that two 9 mm handguns were recovered from the scene (the school) and one assault rifle was recovered from the gunman's vehicle (it had not been used at the school). That was information was corrected later that day by the local medical examiner who made it clear that most of the injuries came from a .223 caliber rifle.
While “The Cliff” is something that by default has to be decided in the halls of the Senate and the Congress, the gun control issue is something that every citizen can impact in some way. Whether pro or con more aggressive gun control, every citizen has an opportunity to express his or her opinion even in their family and circle of friends and actually have an impact on public opinion and eventual tightening or relaxing of gun controls. We can individually also influence public policy regarding those people who have mental problems that lead to using weapons to harm others whether as individuals or in mass.
The difference in “The Cliff” and gun control is that “The Cliff” is a fiscal issue and gun control is a social issue. We have little opportunity to influence fiscal issues other than by attempting to influence lawmakers to vote one way or another. But social issues are packed with emotion and their outcome is entirely based on public opinion based on those emotions. History proves that no amount of money spent on campaigns has other than a very minor influence on swaying our opinions but personal contacts and inputs from others around us have substantial impact.
And so, as we head in a very short time into 2013 and another brand new year, we can hope that all prosper and for peace throughout the world. We know that is a dream that may not be achievable but we can hope for wisdom to cope with these issues and make an effort to make progress in both the financial and social sides of policy and live a better life tomorrow than in 2012.
Peace and good fortune to all.