Robert Schmuhl: American poltiics frozen in the December cold as it approaches a fiscal cliff
ALTHOUGH everyone’s diary says it’s December, America seems frozen in time—with each day noisily reminiscent of the last hours before Election Day. Voters went to the polls a month ago, but Washington politicians continue in electioneering form, as they struggle to keep their footing and avoid falling off "the fiscal cliff."
In recent years, analysts of U.S. politics have lamented the rise of the “permanent campaign” at the expense of deliberate, let’s-work-this-out governing for policies and problems. The choreography of the current cliff-dancing is a prime example of this new, hazardous reality.
Back in the summer of 2011, Democratic President Barack Obama and leaders of the Republican-majority House of Representatives tried to strike “a grand bargain” addressing the government’s massive budget deficit and resulting debt, now over $16 trillion. When their talks failed to produce an acceptable formula for additional revenues, spending cuts and entitlement reforms, Congress passed the “Budget Control Act of 2011”, establishing a joint committee (with six House and six Senate members of equal Democratic-Republican representation) to devise specific ways to decrease the deficit.