what the fiscal cliff can do to Americans -- and people around the globe -- even if we never jump off of it. With no hockey, middle-of-the-road wage earners get hurt. In the grand scheme of things, it's not that big of a deal if Molson Coors ( TAP) sees a decline in Canadian revenue. However, don't tell that to the guy who works at a brewery in St. Johns, Newfoundland or Moncton, New Brunswick. The guy who might lose his job -- and if he lived in the United States, his health insurance -- when Molson Coors reduces staff. As usual, Twitter broadcasts opinions and fuels emotion. One of TheStreet's Real Money contributors, Kate Stalter and CNBC personality Carl Quintanilla posted pretty simple, but effective Tweets. Both go a long way to explaining this spectacle.
It is very Y2K, in that it will likely end up being all of this for nothing. But, with Y2K, like a hockey lockout, it didn't matter quite as much to nearly as many people. No hockey, we buy less beer. No Y2K, no problem. You have a few extra cans of beans in your pantry. If you're really extreme, you bought some special computer software, unplugged your VCR and maybe built a bunker in the background. But this fiscal cliff is real. Yet, it's treated just like any other less meaningful crisis. Sure, I think it will pass, but what if it doesn't? Then what? I suspect my life will go on. But I live in a bubble. While not necessarily "affluent" myself, I live in one of the most affluent parts of Southern California. Life will barely change in my community no matter what happens with the fiscal cliff.
Same for much of the San Francisco Bay Area, Manhattan, Boston, Seattle and other places with tony urban and isolated suburban neighborhoods where people don't even think twice about spending thousands a month on rent, "buying" a house for millions of dollars and going out to eat dinner every other night. Sure, the capital gains tax might make some rich dude in Santa Monica sell his house prematurely, but there will be another wealthy soul there to buy it above asking price. Maybe the same person puts off the BMW purchase when his lease expires, opting to keep the 2010 model by paying the balance. #firstworldproblems! The "Washington/media conglomerate" Stalter refers to rolls in these circles as well. That's why politics, egos and positioning and posturing through the media dictate how the fiscal cliff -- or any crisis du jour -- unfolds. There's little, if any, material impact for the privileged who live and work in Washington, D.C., or who commute in from the suburbs of Northern Virginia or have second homes in New England to come home to for the holidays as the nation sits on the verge of chaos. They're not delaying personal Christmas spending because of the uncertainty. They're not comparing the cost of COBRA vs. buying a temporary stop-gap health insurance plan online if all hell breaks loose. They're not crapping their pants because the 50 shares of Apple ( AAPL) they own lost 25% of its value in a New York Minute, even though Apple is easily America's most dominant company. No matter how much they say they do, they don't care! And they certainly don't get it. It's not possible for them to really get what a poor person, a middle class person, a small business person or even an upper middle class, relatively affluent, white collar cat goes through. Pardon the yelling, but IT'S NOT POSSIBLE!. It's the same dynamic as the high school class that sleeps outside for a night to see "how it feels to be homeless" or the book author who travels the country working minimum wages jobs to see "how it feels to be a low-level, unskilled worker trying to get by."
You can't get it when your livelihood is not on the line. When all you have to "worry" about is, maybe, just maybe, getting voted out of office. No money worries. No concerns over the future. Health care for life. A nice retirement plan. Kid's college is paid for. Private sector gig waiting for you if you want it. He said it about the Civil Rights Movement, but Dylan was right, we really are little more than a pawn in their game.