Every time you turn on the television, someone is talking about falling off the “fiscal cliff.” When most Americans hear the term, they think of a devastating disaster that will destroy the financial stability of our country. If there is no compromise worked out by both parties and the president by Dec. 31, the process of going over the fiscal cliff will start.

It is obvious that fear and destitution is the focus of this narrative, and it is far from the truth. The fiscal cliff is a term that refers to a number of tax increases and spending cuts that are the combination of two major policy changes due to go into effect in January 2013.

The first policy change is called “the sequester,” and it will make automatic spending cuts across domestic discretionary ($50 billion per year) and defense ($50 billion per year) programs. The second policy change is that the Bush and Obama tax cuts will expire, and everyone across the board will see their taxes increase.

President Barack Obama has made it clear that he only wants to increase taxes on households making $250,000 and above. The president has long supported the need for both new revenue and spending cuts to reduce the deficit in a balanced way. House Speaker John Boehner and the Republicans initially appeared as though they would come to the table and compromise.

The lawmakers have had three years to resolve the fiscal cliff, and now that the country is a month away from the two major policy changes, there is a stalemate. When the lawmakers had time, it was not important, and it was placed on the backburner. Now all of the lawmakers are putting the fiscal cliff on the front burner, because it is right around the corner.

Many of the lawmakers are putting the blame on the president, but when there was a bipartisan super committee, there was paralysis; the two sides could not get anything done. Now many Americans think there is going to be another recession, and they are already putting the blame on the president. But many lawmakers know there are thousands of options on the table if the two parties would just sit down and negotiate.

Obama believes he has a mandate from the citizens, and he is waiting for the Republicans to come to the table. The president’s goal is to protect the middle class, and if Congress agrees and acts, it will keep taxes low for 97 percent of Americans. The wealthy will be asked for a little more and their taxes will increase.

Obama knows that during his second term, he must address the financial sustainability of the American economic system. He has a responsibility to balance our economy and begin to pay down our deficit. The president cannot run away from the fiscal cliff, and the fiscal cliff represents the fiscal choices that will be with the president for the duration of his second term.

Obama will be forced to make the hard choices, and everyone in the country will feel the effects. When many of the lawmakers discuss “the sequester,” they make it appear as if it is the president’s fault, but making cuts to the military is not a bad idea. There are going to be cuts in other areas, and everyone should get ready.

If both parties and the president are willing to sit down and negotiate and compromise, the fiscal choices may turn into something positive and proactive. If the fiscal cliff can help lawmakers avoid a financial disaster and slow the growth of government debt, everyone wins.