In the wickedly funny Tim Burton film Mars Attacks! there’s a scene where all 534 members of Congress get vaporized by aliens with ray guns. Alas, just when we need them most, there is nary a Martian invader around. Instead, we have only the tragicomic spectacle of political thumb-wrestling on such a grotesque scale that even optimists will have been sapped of hope that the Republic can somehow survive the follies and depredations of its ruling class. The fact that the negotiations have continued into 2013 after a supposed compromise was reached on New Year’s Eve hints of further perils for Americans in the new year. For, nowhere in any compromise soon to be struck is there a serious word about spending cuts. The main focus of the talks is the extent of tax increases that will in any case hit most workers, and hard. “In effect,” noted the Wall Street Journal, “Congress has delayed the fiscal cliff by erecting a new and potentially more dangerous one.”
Just so. Unfortunately, Monday’s eleventh-hour compromise between Obama and the Senate came after the House had adjourned for the day. Initially the news media waxed exuberant, as is their wont when little or nothing of substance has occurred on Capitol Hill. A day later, however, the headlines that trumpeted the story have become “Dewey-Beats-Truman” offal. We now learn that the Senate’s recipe for Sweeney Todd sausage is not going down so well with House members and that they could reject it. And for good reason: No one especially likes the latest deal – not the Democrats, not the Republicans, not even Obama himself. At least this time Nancy Pelosi has kept her mouth shut, since it’s obvious that, like Obamacare, whatever budget agreement eventually emerges will have to be lived with for a while before we can fully appreciate what a noxious, steaming heap of feces it is. Meanwhile, amidst mounting chaos and discord in Washington, a recession that appears to have already begun will be able to root itself so deeply that even the Guvvamint’s statisticians will recognize it for what it is. (This is notwithstanding a dead-cat bounce in the housing sector that the news media have been effusing over).
Although we shun making “Predictions for 2013” because they are bound to be wrong, it is a safe bet that all-too-interesting times lie just ahead. From an economic standpoint, they are likely to further erode the well-being of America’s middle class, such as it is, changing the country dramatically for the worse by the time Obama’s second term expires.
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