Guest Post: Fiscal Cliff Contingencies
Via Nic Bucheleres of NJBDeflator blog,
While debate over the Fiscal Cliff mostly centers around its latent whiplash effects on the United States economy, its inception is wholly a product of poor deal-making by politicians in Washington D.C. The series of agreements that led to what we know as the Fiscal Cliff began in 2010 in a divided "Lame Duck" session, where Congress passed the "Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010," thereby extending the Bush Era tax-cuts for an extra two years. Affected by these tax-cuts were individual, corporate, estate, and trust taxes, as well as Social Security employee payroll taxes.
The divergence between consumers and producers within the real economy that has stumped economists for the better part of 2012 can, at least in part, be attributed to the Fiscal Cliff; but the anticipatory effects of the Fiscal Cliff on the United States of America evidently began with American politicians, and probably for the worse, that is where it will end. The division that has plagued Washington has grown starker in recent years, and the divergence between consumers and producers as a result of divided leadership stands as a testament to the irresponsibility of those sent to Washington D.C. to serve their country. These divergences cannot last forever, and depending on the events of the next couple weeks, the United States is due for a reversion to the mean. The direction of that reversion—either production up to meet consumption or consumption down to meet production and confirm a recession within the United States—is wholly on the shoulders of the politicians in Washington D.C.
Starting April 2011, ratings agencies began issuing official statements warning of a possible US credit downgrade if Congress failed to reach a deal over the federal debt. Of course, Congress did in fact fail to reach an agreement on a bi¬partisan debt reduction pact, which prompted the debt ceiling to be raised. Days after Congress passed the "Budget Control Act" raising the debt ceiling for the 47t1 time since 1917, Standard & Poor's downgraded the US federal government credit rating from AAA to AA+, marking the first time in history that US debt was rated below AAA.
The impact of the one-time downgrade in the creditworthiness of US debt was minor, but it stands as an omen for what will befall the US in the event that the Fiscal Cliff is not resolved smoothly. Recent history with the federal debt/deficit underlines why the current Fiscal Cliff debate is so contentious, and the implications of a failure to responsibly address the issues of the Fiscal Cliff—both in the short- run and in the long-run—are the motivation for our exploration into the drag that such a political failure would have (and is currently having) on the US economy as analyzed through our model of Fiscal Cliff contingencies for various agents.