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“Fiscal Cliff” is a term referring to the potential consequences of tax increases and spending cuts on the United States budget deficit. It became a major talking point of the congressional debate as well as online discussions and parodies during the bipartisan negotiation process in December 2012.
According to an article on the BBC, the phrase “fiscal cliff” was first used in a New York Times article from 1957, in which writer Walter Stern used the term in reference to the financial consequences of people buying their first home. On February 29th, 2012, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke popularized the term when speaking to the House Committee on Financial Services when warning about the effects of spending cuts caused by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and automatic tax increases from expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts in 2013.
“Under current law, on January 1st, 2013, there is going to be a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases. I hope that Congress will look at that and figure out ways to achieve the same long run fiscal improvement without having it all happen at -- at one date.”
On December 4th, 2012, the AnimationonFox YouTube channel uploaded a video showing the character Mr. Burns from the animated TV show The Simpsons explaining the fiscal cliff (shown below). Within one month, the video received over 3.4 million views and 6,000 up votes.
On December 31st, the “Les Fiscal Miserables” Tumblr blog was launched, which highlighted image macros referencing the Broadway musical Les Miserables with politicians working to solve the fiscal cliff economic crisis. The same day, The Huffington Post published an article featuring a slideshow of notable examples from the blog (shown below).
On January 1st, The Daily Mail published an article titled “Fiscal ‘Cliff’ Bars, Dr. Fiscal ‘Cliff’ Huxtable and Les Miserables all get the hilarious Internet meme treatment,” which featured several image macros using the fiscal cliff crisis as a punchline. On the following day, the United States House of Representatives approved a bill to avert the fiscal cliff, which maintained tax cuts for people earning less than $400,000 per year and raised taxes for anyone making more. Several “Scumbag Congress” image macros were created on Quickmeme referencing the way Congress handled the fiscal cliff threat (shown below).
Also on January 2nd, a video of President Barack Obama explaining the fiscal cliff agreement was uploaded to YouTube (shown below).
The Huffington Post – Les Fiscal Miserables Memes Makes Hilarious Comparisons Between Politicians Broadway