The technical definition of the fiscal cliff is a combination of expiring tax cuts and across-the-board government spending cuts scheduled to become effective Dec. 31.
Unfortunately, since the cliff involves Washington and the federal government, it's not that simple.
President Obama wants to continue the George W. Bush-era tax rates for 98 percent of Americans, while letting them expire for the top 2 percent income earners. The Republican-controlled Congress has offered to produce the same amount of revenue while not increasing tax rates on anyone, preferring changes in tax deduction rules and closing loopholes instead.
In either case, the revenue from these hijinks would operate our deficit-ridden government for about eight days. So that makes this artificial rich vs. poor argument that the president has turned into a divisive art form nothing more than pettiness.
It may sell well to the gullible on a campaign tour and get the president re-elected, but it won't solve the government's problems. And presidents are supposed to be about solving problems. The campaign ended a month ago.
Taxing the very rich will only reduce the prospects that those same people will employ more people and reinvest in their businesses. That's damaging to our already fragile economy.
And the fact that the president would prefer to vacation in Hawaii rather than ever honestly discuss spending cuts is downright irresponsible.
Our hunch is that if representatives of the House and Senate from both parties and the administration locked themselves in a room and took a hard, honest look at how the government spends its money, there would be cuts in the trillions of dollars that would reduce the nation's $16 trillion debt.
The president has chosen instead to push this class warfare theme. He's been re-elected and now he wants his trophy, results be damned. He may have a compliant mainstream media to sell this weak plan, but we're not buying.
Anyone taking an objective look knows that you can't double the nation's debt in four years as this president has and then propose a tax hike that does nothing as your solution.
The problem isn't revenue. It's spending.
And it's leadership.
We need leaders of both parties to step up and consider the future of the country they've been elected to run above petty, political wins and losses.
The problem is much simpler than the combatants make it sound leave the tax structure along, create more revenue by tightening some deductions and loopholes, and take a knife to the waste that is in the existing budget.
The clock is ticking. The question is do they care about problem-solving or political face-saving?