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The Necessary Pain of the Fiscal Cliff

As we in the U.S. stand at the edge of the fiscal cliff and stare into the abyss, I ask myself: Why does it exist? The pain that will be created by a series of tax hikes and draconian spending cuts will undoubtedly push the U.S. into a recession. Why would anyone create such a doomsday scenario?

Well, pain can act as a strong motivator. A person with a toothache may avoid a visit to the dentist, but eventually the pain of not dealing with reality becomes too great, and off to the dentist they go. The pain is there for a reason; it is a call to action.

The fiscal cliff was put in place in order to create change by forcing us Americans to face some unpleasant truths. The basic underlying reality is that one cannot live beyond one's means indefinitely. Even if a deal can be reached and the fiscal cliff is averted, some of the planned tax increases and spending cuts are likely to remain in place. If we don't address the root of the problem, we'll find ourselves in a similar position in the future.

As always, crisis leads to opportunity. This moment in time is our opportunity to effect positive changes that will prevent the U.S. from finding itself on the edge of the abyss in the future.

For example, higher taxes on the wealthy are a given. That's a good thing, but those rates mean little without the elimination of tax loopholes. It is the effective tax rate that needs to be targeted, rather than the nominal tax rate. Nominal rates bear little resemblance to reality, particularly among the very wealthy. We need to drastically simplify the tax code in order to eliminate those loopholes, and synchronize the two. Now is the time to do it.

The group Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength has a motto: "Tax us, we can take it." That exemplifies the attitude needed to overcome our obstacles. As someone who has been extremely fortunate in business, I agree with this sentiment. However, as someone who grew up in the middle class row houses of inner-city Philadelphia, I also value hard work and responsibility.

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