I’ve made my views about what I think of hype about sequestration (aka incessant fiscal cliff nonsense)  pretty clear. (See this, this, this and this if you somehow missed it). It won’t surprise you to learn that as a general principle, I find the collection of fiscal cliff clock countdowns to be idiotic on principle alone.

It turns out there is another reason to dislike these down-to-the-second reminders of what we all know has been coming for 18 months: They are counting down to a date — December 31st — that is, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant.

As Dow Jones’ Vincent Cignarella pointed out, according to the rules in the House of Representatives, the very last day any bill can be introduced to Congress before adjourning is December 18th. Not the 31st, but the 18th. And, Congress is expected to adjourn for the year on December 21st.

But that date may matter less than another date: December 17th. That’s when President Obama and his family leave the hellscape that is DC for their annual family vacation in Hawaii.

All of those countdown clocks you see on CNBC and Marketwatch and everywhere else counting down to December 31st?

Like so much else in the financial press, they are meaningless noise . . .




Category: Financial Press, Really, really bad calls

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

19 Responses to “Those Idiotic ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Countdown Clocks? All Wrong.”

  1. sellstop says:

    The “fiscal cliff” is only the latest corporate funded media ploy. We need to think about our taxes and government more as a country and place less faith in the advice of corporate leaders… who have their own interests at heart, er..wallet.

  2. Moe says:

    Can I get that graphic on a wristwatch? – I’d pay BIG bucks…

  3. For all we know, “fiscal cliff” was sponsored by the banks or the insurance companies. Investors are misinformed by not reading TBP posts. Good observation, BR.

  4. carleric says:

    What this country needs is a higher fiscal cliff or a larger flushing. God, can we talk about something relelvant for a change?

  5. 873450 says:

    Yes, but what if the Mayans are right?

    As a precaution, the Obama family will vacation in a subterranean bomb shelter under a Hawaii volcano stockpiled with 80-year supplies of cigarettes for him, health food for her and Twinkies for the kids. If the widely predicted fiscal cliff, Mayan doomsday prophecy and Obama re-election apocalypse are hoaxes we will see video of them relaxing on a beach 01/01/13.

  6. Eliza says:

    S.O.S. Different year.

  7. romerjt says:

    OK, so let’s go with the FC doesn’t really matter (leaning toward that), everyone pretty much acknowledges the Republican will be blamed. What happens when everyone figures out, “blamed for what?” I try not to think about this especially after I read a comment on another article (from RW) about how almost half the Reps think ACORN caused the Obama victory even though they no longer exist.

  8. AnnaLee says:

    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
    All the King’s horses, And all the King’s men
    Couldn’t put Humpty together again!

    But the Mechanics Union put Humpty together in short order.


    Riding a fall can be a good time:

  9. ZedLoch says:

    Toddler view of the Fiscal Cliff:

    At least you can see how well CNBC appeals to their target audience!

  10. DW auto says:

    It might be noise but have to consider what the other investors think the other investors think about what the less sophisticated people are thinking. Sell off in 2009 happened much later than when crisis first hit. FC availability cascade creating panic is possible. Media hype trying to out do each other …When everyone focuses on FC as we draw nearer and think it thru… seems recovery in ’09 happened when mainsteam media stopped reporting negative economic news. Mainstream media is reporting on all cylinders…

  11. jd351 says:

    Just another big con. Do yourself a favor, cut the cable , turn off the talking heads. Life is so much better without my cable…. Been off the reservation for a year now, then when I do catch the news , I realize just how idiotic these people really are in life. Bunch of losers sucking the oxygen out of the room.

  12. howardoark says:

    I agree with BR that the Fiscal Cliff shouldn’t make any difference for any number of reasons. But “shouldn’t” make a difference and “won’t” make a difference are two wildly different things. Stocks are worth what people will pay for them and if enough people decided that they don’t want to be long with the end of the universe as we know it fast approaching, that won’t be good.

  13. jonKrim says:

    Barry, the clock refers not to when action can be taken, but when things change if nothing is resolved. Such as temporary payroll tax cuts, other tax breaks, some spending cuts, etc. I get that you don’t think these are terribly meaningful, but they commence on Jan. 1. Sorry you don’t like our little visualization device, and glad you got it off your chest! — Jonathan Krim, editor of MarketWatch.com.

  14. 2 contras:

    1) The dates I referenced refer to when negotiations have to hit a deadline due to Congressional rules & WH vacation. It is when sequestration becomes inevitable.

    2) What is the significance of Dec 31st? These are spending cuts and tax hikes that phase in over 12 months — therefore making the Cliff metaphor totally wrong and the 12/31 date not significant — except for a sensationalistic hype/countdown purposes. NOTHING HAPPENS ON 12/31 MIDNIGHT

  15. Disinfectant says:

    I remember that the debt ceiling legislation last year absolutely HAD to be introduced by a certain date. That date passed by and they still got it done about a week later. So the countdown is probably meaningless, even with Barry’s adjusted dates.

  16. ZedLoch says:


    Exactly. Because everyone knows the Mayan Apocalypse would have already occurred on Dec. 21st.

  17. ellwood2011 says:

    Exactly right. What is going on now is a media play on both sides to act as if they tried to reach a deal. What will happen in reality is in January the House will pass a continuation of the tax cuts for the non-top-2% and maybe a dividend tax rate of 20%. An amendment will be allowed to out everyone on record about whether to extend them for the top 2%. The Dems will vote no, and a bunch of GOP will abstain, allowing the amendment to be defeated. The Dems will try to get the payroll tax cut extended but it will be procedurally waylaid. The Senate will pass its own bill reinstating the spending that is going to sequestered and eliminating a debt ceiling but Boehner will say, we gave Obama what he demanded, now it’s your turn to compromise. He will allow that the House might pass the payroll tax cut to get things down. As time ticks on, the Senate will have little choice but to settle for the payroll tax cut, drop its add-ons and pass the bill as Boehner prescribes and the left will claim victory but in reality the right will be quite happy to have all the domestic spending cuts kick in, not least because the administration is totally unprepared for them and will make a hash out of everything, setting up a 2014 campaign about competence.

  18. hillhill says:

    Barry, your post is incorrect on the key congressional dates, but that’s understandable since you (and the WSJ author you cite) are probably not well-versed in congressional rule (which are quite arcane). Yes, Congress is scheduled to go out of session on the 18th, but the leaders of both houses can change the schedule. If there is no deal by the 18th, I guarantee that Congress will be in session until Christmas and then between Christmas and New Year’s. They’ve done that before and will do it again. As for Obama, he won’t leave until Congress does. So if Congress stays in session, Obama will stay in DC.

    Also, they don’t really need to have a bill ready 3 days before the vote. As Mr. Cignarella notes, although the law is supposed to require three day’s notice before a bill can be voted on, “there are ways around that requirement.” If they strike a deal on the 31st, they will vote on the 31st.