Friday 9 December 2016

Robert Schmuhl: American poltiics frozen in the December cold as it approaches a fiscal cliff

Published 14/12/2012 | 11:06

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."

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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.

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