Bowles-Simpson

Dangling on the Fiscal Cliff

Conspicuous by its absence on the main stages of the Republican and Democratic national conventions has been talk about how the country can avoid careening off a fiscal cliff next year.

The fiscal cliff is real and its impacts known. Its pressure on the political system is palpable. Yet no one wants to venture forth to describe what is likely to happen after the November general election as national leaders watch the clock of a $1 trillion time bomb count down.

Congress triggered the time bomb itself to create a bipartisan political dynamic to come up with a budget and tax plan or face draconian budget cuts and automatic tax increases. Spending reductions for defense and other spending programs and hikes on income tax rates and Social Security payroll tax rates threaten to jolt the U.S. economy back into recession.

Despite widespread dire warnings, President Obama and Congress, especially the GOP-controlled House, are so badly stalemated, they haven't even made a serious effort to disarm the time bomb.

And now they aren't even talking about the fiscal cliff on the campaign stump because any significant compromise budget plan will involve spending cuts and higher taxes neither party wants to own heading into an election.