On Monday, investors on Wall Street sent stocks soaring on the airy hope that the president and Congress will come up with a deal to avoid the "
Apparently, investors so want to believe that a budget deal will be struck to keep the U.S. from falling back into a deeper recession that they have abandoned informed skepticism and opted for wishful thinking. So, before we give too much credence to earnest promises by leaders in Washington, it might be useful to recall how we got wedged into this precarious corner.
The reason we are where we are is because our elected leaders put us here. The fiscal cliff -- a set of automatic draconian budget cuts and tax increases that will start taking effect on Jan. 1 -- was purposely created as a way to force the squabbling Congress and president into a budget deal. It is part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that grew out of the near-disastrous debt ceiling showdown between
The idea was that Republicans and
Well, that was in August of 2011 -- about the time the 2012 election campaign was kicking into gear -- and it was not until election day passed two weeks ago that anyone got serious about the looming deadline. With all that time wasted, congressional leaders came out of a
Much was made of Speaker of the House
On the Democratic side, House Minority Leader
Many folks who claim to be political experts say this is mere posturing and that both sides will give up something to get a deal done -- with Republicans giving up more because the president is in a commanding negotiating position having just won reelection. Perhaps they are right, but the kind of hardheaded political calculation that used to get deals done in the days of Lyndon
Congress is now filled with people like
Hard-line liberals will also be difficult to move, especially if a proposed deal threatens the status quo in Social Security or Medicare. What is needed in the House and