Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Dive Would Impose Steadily Increasing Pain and Hardship

At the New York Times, "Fiscal Cutoff Gradually Morphs Into Horizon":

Negotiations are set to resume in the coming days, following a break for Christmas, although hopes for a so-called grand bargain have faded. Instead, President Obama is pushing for a scaled-back plan that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts on incomes below $250,000, while suspending the automatic spending cuts and extending unemployment benefits.

Michelle Meyer, senior United States economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said there is a 40 percent chance of what she calls a “bungee-jump over the fiscal cliff,” with Congress failing to act until after Jan. 1 but eventually averting the full package of tax increases and spending cuts by mid-January. If that were to happen, she predicts a steep sell-off on Wall Street, which would quickly force political leaders to compromise.

Over all, Ms. Meyer estimates that the economy will grow by just 1 percent in the first quarter of 2013, well below the 3.1 percent pace recorded in the third quarter of 2012.

What’s worrisome, she added, is that consumer anxiety about the fiscal impasse has begun to mount, catching up with business leaders who have been warning of economic danger since summer. “What’s been missing in this recovery has been confidence,” she said. “We’d see a healthy recovery if it weren’t for this uncertainty and the potential shock from Washington.”

Indeed, the economy has been showing signs of life recently. Unemployment in November sank to 7.7 percent, a four-year low. Consumer spending has been picking up, and the housing market has continued to recover in many parts of the country. Overseas worries like slowing growth in China and recession in Europe have also faded.

Those trends have encouraged some observers, like Steve Blitz, chief economist at ITG Investment Research. He estimates that the economy will grow by nearly 2.5 percent in the first quarter if Washington comes up with even a modest compromise. In the absence of a deal, the pace of growth would be more like 1 percent, he said.

“I don’t think that not having a deal going into the new year is all that critical,” Mr. Blitz said. “It doesn’t mean you will immediately go into a recession.”
RTWT at the link.

And that's Maria Bartiromo at the clip, mercilessly hammering the befuddled Democrat Senator Ben Cardin, via Eliana Johnson at National Review, "Maria Bartiromo Lays the Smackdown on Ben Cardin, Trading Floor Erupts in Cheers."

And see Jonathan Tobin, at Commentary, "Democrats Can’t Avoid Fiscal Cliff Blame."