The Fiscal Cliff is the succinct term coined by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke to outline the 600 billion US $ or so of tax hikes and spending cuts which were due to come into effect at the end of 2012. Taxes were set to rise in January 2013, triggered by the expiry of a series of existing tax cuts and spending was due to be slashed in the wake of the 2011 Budget Control Act. These measures would obviously have had a major influence on national debt and the US budget but their combined impact could have plunged the US economy into an immediate recession.
Fortunately, Democrats and Republicans managed to avert the Cliff by finally hammering out an eleventh-hour compromise late on New-Year’s eve. The deal blocked the majority of impending tax hikes whilst postponing the scheduled cuts in spending, but nonetheless left a whole range of issues largely unresolved. As a result, many economists have proclaimed the Fiscal Cliff as having been “postponed” rather than “averted” and are now trying to assess when the full impact will eventually be felt.
Translators working with the French language on the other hand, are trying to imagine the new terminology which is likely to be invented when the topic returns to the headlines once again, having had to grapple with a vast array of Gallic versions of the Fiscal Cliff last time around. “Falaise Fiscale” is the most obvious rendering but was strangely seldom used by economic commentators in France and was even regularly distorted into “Falaise Fiscal” neglecting the gender agreement. Financial texts portrayed the drama of the situation by referring to the looming “Précipice Budgétaire”. Some referred to a more prosaic “Falaise Budgétaire” or even pictured an “Escarpement Budgétaire”. Most translations involved a term denoting some sort of “wall”. “Mur budgétaire” was frequently used, but was perhaps considered too trifling and was therefore soon supplanted by the sturdier “Muraille Budgétaire”. A longer variant, “le mur de la dette américaine”, seems to be the most common translation within financial texts. However, despite being somewhat verbose, this phrase focuses too heavily on the debt angle and omits the tax issue.
Judging by the challenge faced by French authors in replicating this moniker, Ben Bernanke clearly came up with a very concise catch-phrase. Let us hope that The Fed’s economic policies prove equally apposite.