Tonawanda News

December 7, 2012

The more I learn the less I know

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — While wondering who this “Fiscal Cliff” guy is, suddenly so important, it occurs to me no one is expecting to pick up the newspaper or turn on a television in the next few days and see a kumbaya moment in Washington with a lot of bipartisan shaking of hands, wiping of brows and mutterings of “Whew! That was close!,” as in comic books from the time Bob Dole was a kid.

I don’t know what to expect, except that I am confident it will impact negatively on me.

But then, the back of my head tells that to the front of my head, and the front of my head says, “That’s what they want you to think!”

With the aforementioned television wandering over to Fox News from its preferred location at ESPN, I note even they are worried over there. They’re assigning the blame differently from the rest of humanity, but they’re worried.

And if anyone can give me a lucid and correct list of how things will be different around here, once we flip over the calendar and knock a few more props out from under the American Way of Life, would I actually believe him or her, or would I assume he/she is giving me a load of partisan claptrap?

I can bloviate all day on the topic of how politics has gone down the sewer pipe in this country since Newt Gingrich arrived in Washington to make loyalty to party Congress’ highest priority. So can you. The problem is, it’s easy to assign cynicism to situations and places it does not belong, which makes me feel like the daily paper is the Conspiracy Theorist Starter Set, to wit: 

Among the recipients of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors is David Letterman. The honor is a prestigious one, given by a non-government group that nonetheless involves the president in a lot of ceremony. It’s as close as the United States government gets to acknowledging the best of the country’s performing artists, and Letterman’s program has given Mr. Obama an open invitation and a welcoming platform in the past few years.

As an American citizen who admires both Mr. Obama and Mr. Letterman, I wonder if this a quid pro quo of sorts, a thank-you note for Letterman’s recent work in making Obama look good and Mr. Romney look like Thurston Howell III, and I wonder if this is how UFO enthusiasts get started.

Back to the story: the “fiscal cliff” tales are a little like learning pro-government and rebel Syrians have moved into the neighborhood. You know something’s about to go wrong but you don’t know the magnitude of it.

Will our first paychecks of the new year (or pension checks or government transfer checks) have numbers completely warped from what we’ve become accustomed? Does the price of everything suddenly go up? Are half our soldiers out of work? Can I assume the price of gas will rise? Everything makes the price of gas rise. Is this a good time, or a bad time, for a terrorist attack?

In short, does anyone know what he or she is talking about when this is the topic?

And by extension, does anyone with his/her mouth open know anything?

This, I find bothersome. The more I hear, the less I understand.

One of this country’s great social philosophers, George Carlin, pointed out every statement is a guess. What the best doctor will tell you, the best plumber, the foremost political pundit or stock market analyst; it comes down to simply taking a stab at something. This is what this little taxpaying American citizen finds so maddening about the topic everyone in media, but seemingly no one in daily life, is talking about. How the “fiscal cliff” stuff will impact me, and you, remains a crapshoot.

Among the many things I learned from my study of baseball is something once said by an executive of the Toronto Blue Jays, who pointed out any decent accountant can make a $4 million profit look like a $2 million loss. Assuming it’s true, it has colored my outlook on things ever since I heard it. I suspect the first pay period of the New Year will look like business as usual, and any cracks in the system will be neatly papered over by accounting tricks. That’s why we pay these Congressmen, anyway.

The next time you see a television image of the U.S. Capitol building, remind yourself it’s built on a foundation of rapidly-shifting paper. Ask the Congressional Budget Office. They’re probably in on the conspiracy, too.

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at