Democrats try to rebrand the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ the ‘Fiscal Slope’

Three weeks after Barack Obama’s re-election things aren’t going all that smoothly. Republicans are already trying to block Susan Rice from taking over for Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Obama hasn’t even appointed her yet. More importantly, talks around the “fiscal cliff” seem to have stalled. Harry Reid today said “little progress” had been made and it’s time to “get away from the happy talk and start talking about specific things.”

The response from Democrats? They seem to have realized the fiscal cliff is suffering from a bad branding problem, and they’re trying to rebrand it as the “fiscal slope.”

“This is not like the debt ceiling debate where in fact, if you don’t pay your bills on a certain date, there are very dramatic repercussions,” said Bernie Sanders of Vermont, pointing out that even if we do go over “the cliff,” nothing bad will happen right away. According to Politico, “reporters covering the fiscal cliff debate often hear from sources on the left pleading for them to stop calling it a ‘cliff.’ Use something gentler that really reflects the situation, they say, like ‘slope’ or ‘curve.'”

If that’s true the cliff isn’t really a cliff, someone forgot to tell all the stock traders out there. At the moment Wall Street basically hangs on any comment anyone makes about the fiscal cliff. The Dow Jones dropped about 90 points today at Harry Reid just saying “little progress” had been made, even though he said he doesn’t expect to go over the cliff in the same sentence.

It’s one area where you have to give Republicans credit—they’re great at branding: It’s not pro-choice and anti-choice, it’s pro-choice and pro-life. Social Security and Medicare and the social contract, they’re “entitlement programs,” ostensibly for crybabies. The wealthiest Americans aren’t wealthy, they’re “job creators.” And it’s not austerity, it’s a fiscal cliff.

For his part Obama has played right into it, using “fiscal cliff” along with everyone else. On the one hand it’s problematic in that it paints an unrealistic picture of what’s actually going on, but it could work to his benefit, too: now that everyone is pretty sure the world will end in a ball of fire if we do in fact slide down the “fiscal slope” (who are we kidding—that metaphor is never going to stick) it might make striking a deal feel more urgent and therefore be more likely.