The U.S. Barrels Toward a Fiscal Cliff

4/18/2012 8:09 PM ET

By Anthony Mirhaydari, MSN Money

Partisan gridlock and an unwillingness to administer tough medicine have produced a long history of fiscal irresponsibility. A new debacle is at hand.

Anthony Mirhaydari

For all the well-paid analysts and sophisticated computer systems that dominate trading, Wall Street still can't seem to focus on more than one thing at a time.

For now, the focus has returned to the European debt crisis, as the issues that cut down Greece, Portugal and Ireland have hit Spain hard.

But very soon, as Election Day approaches, the attention will turn back to U.S. debt and deficit issues, which, as in Spain, are caused by too much debt and a government trying to avoid its budget-cutting duties. Remember last summer's debt-ceiling debacle and the market meltdown caused partly by the loss of the Treasury's AAA credit rating? Get ready for the sequel.

Are democracies doomed?

This time, however, Washington will have to contend not only with its new $16.4 trillion debt ceiling, but with the expiration of a long list of revenue measures (Bush tax cuts, payroll tax holiday and more) and automatic spending cuts that add up to a drag on growth of around 4% of the gross domestic product.

And unless something is done, it would all happen at once -- risking a new recession outright, since the International Monetary Fund is looking for the U.S. economy to expand by only 2.1% this year and 2.4% in 2013.

/*

This is the "fiscal cliff" Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has been warning about. It's real. It's coming. And soon, it will be all that Wall Street's chatterboxes are talking about.

No more can-kicking

The problem is that we can no longer avoid the hard fiscal choices we've been avoiding -- a topic I've written about frequently.

We needed meaningful stimulus to boost short-term growth and slash the "cyclical" portion of the deficit related to our mediocre recovery. Not only would more vigorous growth cut the deficit by increasing tax revenues and cutting expenditures on things like food stamps, Medicaid and unemployment benefits, it would also clear the way to address the deeper "structural" deficit.

This is the real crux of the problem. And there are no easy answers. What do we do about out-of-control health care costs? Or a bloated Pentagon budget? Or a share of tax revenue, as a percentage of GDP, that has returned to levels not seen in 60 years?

The problem is worsened by demographics. More older Americans and fewer young workers to support them will put additional strain on the federal budget. Any increase in interest rates if the Federal Reserve loses control of inflation will compound the problem via higher payments on existing debt. It's an untenable position.

The White House and Congress have had their chance over the last few years to thread this policy needle, mixing short-term stimulus with medium-term austerity and essential reforms. Instead, political bloodlust killed any chance of mindful bipartisanship. The recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission were ignored, and the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -- the "supercommittee" -- simply failed to produce results.

A big part of the reason analysts at Standard & Poor's pulled our AAA rating back in August was our dysfunctional politics. Democrats and Republicans didn't address the issues. And they didn't merely kick the can down the road -- they held all of us hostage to 11th-hour brinkmanship as the debt ceiling approached to score points with far-left and the far-right extremists.

You see, after years of fiscal irresponsibility, we face an inescapable dilemma: We fly off the fiscal cliff, cutting the deficit by crushing the economy and, like Europe now, repeating the mistakes of the 1937 Great Depression double-dip; or we swerve, keep our tax cuts and benefits but watch in horror as a lingering deficit doubles the national debt over the next 10 years.

Economic research suggests both higher debt and deep short-term austerity limit economic growth. So we can pick our poison. You want the hurt now or later?

What's worse is that the choice must be made with a gun to the head. The chart above shows that we're fast approaching the new, raised debt ceiling.

A decision on all of these issues -- the deficit, the debt ceiling, tax cuts and unemployment benefits -- will need to be made in the context of a fierce, polarized presidential election, the lame-duck congressional session that will follow and an even-more-divided government in 2013. Prediction markets suggest President Barack Obama will win re-election and Republicans will hold the House and retake the Senate.

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We as a people can only blame ourselves for this mess, we have continuously elected these politicians.  We just wanted to hear only what they would do for us and not what we needed to hear, which is the truth.   Remember every civilization has a beginning a middle and an end.  We have reached the beginning of that END.    4    0ReportSpamLostOnEarth59 minutes ago

Don't listen to this KOO KOO folks! He's just another Republican/Tea Partier/Libertarian snake, spewing his venom.

 

Doom and Gloom = REALITY!

    0    3ReportSpamKOO1 hour agoI forgot to mention that Mirhaydari never seems to remember that we live in a global marketplace and the evolution of marketplaces eventually leads their governments to democracy. We are exporting the American way of life and in evidence I point you all towards American companies who barely break even here but show profits because of their growth in China, Spain, Russia, India...for example, Pizza Hut, Dunkin' Donuts, KFC, 3M, GM, FORD, etc... Don't let Mirhaydari bring you down. You can still believe in the American ideal even if he has forgotten it. I double guarantee you this market will be higher in December than it is now because of Obama and no thanks to the GOP or the Doom and Gloom squad at MSN Money.    2    4ReportSpamLostOnEarth1 hour ago

There is no such thing as monetary inflation! Print away and distribute the wealth equally amongst the masses. That is the only way towards the road to prosperity for all!

    2    3ReportSpamKOO1 hour ago

"Meet Anthony Mirhaydari and other gurus at the Moneyshow in Las Vegas." Are you kidding me? I still haven't figured out how this guy makes any money without spreading doom and gloom to short the market. Count on this...when President Obama is re-elected and short-selling gets restricted then Tony will be unemployed. One thing you are not factoring in is the acceleration of manufacturing cars that reduces our dependence on foreign oil. As oil comes down, airlines will be able to offer low fares again and the global tourism trades will once again flourish. The Senate and Congress need to be stripped bare of anyone older than 40 so we can reclaim our country and purge the corruption. The GOP has fought Obama on every move to increase taxes on the rich, go after foreign tax havens, expose our CIA payments to arab dictators (hush money for Big Oil) and create a fairer healthcare system for legal citizens. The GOP pays for free healthcare for illegal aliens with our tax dollars and then shames Americans who want more affordable healthcare for their legal families. No more filthy rich trust fund baby bible thumpers in the White House! Vote Obama! DOW 14,000 by Christmas!

    2    3ReportSpamwaraksas1 hour agoI believe that government intervention is simply postponing what the free market will do when left alone. Unemployment is falling because many people have simply left the work force and are no longer looking for work. The real rate is perhaps 15% or higher. Inflation has been relatively kept in check due to Bernake's virtually nil interest rates. Housing has stiil to turn around and get out of it's recession depths. Gasoline is high and as it goes the price of goods and services go. I still think the '82 recession was worse then or equal to this one. If our economy does tank, I'd rather have a new driver at the wheel than one that believes his policies are the only way to go.    1    4ReportSpamLt. Dan 1514 hours ago

@ T D (dicherico)

 

in response to your question about the $8.00 p/hr

 

 

It would be very tough, but that person can go to school, get a degree then make more money.  Work more than 40 hrs a week, or work 2 jobs.  Live with roommates, join the military.  Collect cans, mow lawns, baby sit, wash cars etc...

 

Garden to get your food bill down.  eat rice and ramen

 

Working for hrs a week is not mandatory. 

 

    1    4ReportSpamLt. Dan 1514 hours ago

@ T D (dicherico)

 

The main reason to cut welfare is there is not gain from it.  What comes out of it?  It's funny there are signs if forests stating "Don't feed animals"  It creates dependency, the animals are smart and they stop working for their food, they become dependent on people giving them food.  Welfare is the same.  I do understand people need help at times; there should be a way to do that.  However, long term welfare should not be an option.  Kind of like unemployment, it's not long term, but you pay into it.

 

Also why go after successful people and/or business?  If you came up with a widget and everyone wanted it, you have the right to charge more money for it.  If you get too greedy and get crazy with the price, someone else will come up with a better widget, and then you lose money.

I do agree there should not be price gouging.  

 

    7    5ReportSpamalboy4 hours ago

Perhaps the reward for minor innovation is unbalanced e.g. facebook and other social websites.  What benefit to humanity or science is facebook? 

Perhaps education is underrated and needs to be innovated.

Stamping out students like crates of eggs or iron mouldings might be good generally.

Lets have programs where perhaps self study and offering higher education to some who have the talent.

There is no one answer.

More innovative approaches should be used.

    2    1ReportSpamT D (dicherico)4 hours ago

Hello,

 

One other comment, Can someone show me a real way you can Exist just Exist on $8 a hour or $280 a week apx after taxes ? Rent in lowest citys $600-$700 a month oh yeah and buy food and pay for medical and transportation/Bus Utilitys.

 

    7    2ReportSpamT D (dicherico)4 hours ago

?  Why is The freaking remedy always,alway,always lets cut food stamps and medicaid and Social Security. Are you people crazy ? These are the poorest Americans! What about for instance Exxons CEO 34.6 Million a year 20% increase from last year,Humm lemme see Im sure he needs every penny and more so lets cut off millions of Americans food stamps and eh the sick and poor dont need medical care or $1100-$1500 Social security either which is below poverty line anyways  just a little FYI, Lets give the rich a tax break! Sound familar Republicans ? oh and lets finance it by lowering ( Food Stanps ) cut out unemployment,and end Social Security and while were doing this lets give ourselfs a 50 % raise and do away with taxes for anyone who makes over a 100k. Im sorry but look around the USA its not even the same country anymore were suffering or in most cases most people are just getting by.

GOD BLESS All THE PEOPLE! NOT ONLY 1 %

 

T.

 

    11    5ReportSpamalboy4 hours ago

Innovate or stagnate and die.

Instead of burning money in the corporate money pit,

fund small business and inventors and software makers.

Focus on creativity instead of factory.

We had our industrial revolution and the machines

are sophisticated to the extent of needing little intervention once manufactured.

    1    2ReportSpamLt. Dan 1515 hours ago

Why do so many people think "Just take from the rich"?  How about stopping handouts.  Get rid of welfare, kill the life sentence (the ones that cannot be paroled)  Make the people who use to be on welfare work on picking up the trash,  doing the labor jobs that the illegal aliens are doing, and have them get paid for it.  If you don't want to do the labor jobs, then either go to school or starve. 

 

 

So basic rules

1) Work for what you want

2) Stop expecting handouts

3) Stop playing the victom

4) Pay taxes like the rest of us

5) Follow steps 1-4

    12    7ReportSpamAn Eagle5 hours agoMirhaydari seems to believe that growth is the most important value.  That is along the lines that security (financial in this case) is more important than freedom.  And --- as predicted by the founders, we will have neither.The growth is done folks --- time to move on to whether we want to preserve the American culture or not.  There is nothing wrong with an aging population and stasis.  If you want to choke the machine, just pull back to the countryside, grow your own food, and take FULL advantage of the second amendment.    7    4ReportSpamvic19786 hours agohow about taxing the wealthy?    17    12ReportSpamoldfert6 hours agoEVeryone seems to have lost track of the history of this mess. Using a Titanic analogy, the ice berg that America hit has faded off into the horizon. And that ice berg formed because of silly Wall Street speculation and fiddling with things like derivatives and hedging their bets along with even sillier toxic mortgages originating with Fannie and Freddie (and condoned by Frank and Dodd). Now the ship is ripped open to the tune of 16 trillion, and the lifeboats are being lowered, and the crew is arguing over whose fault it is.  There's no simple answer folks. Socialist spend crazy democrats certainly aren't going to solve it and Wall Street pampering republicans may not be able to either. It's a puzzlement.    6    7ReportSpamletsgo216 hours agowe the people means nothing to a politician!!!    22    1ReportSpamletsgo216 hours agothe higher the debt the higher the gas prices no other way to squeeze people out of their money sept increasing the oil prices till the people break...    3    11ReportSpamudelose6 hours agoConsidering History is what I teach and have written many college papers on the subject I would have to disagree with you.  It is easy for you to blame only one facet of a problem and feel confident that you have hit the nail on the head, solving all problems.  Well it is not so easy especially when government is in bed with corporations, so in reality it is government that is the problem,  historically and today.  Only one of many issues that combine to cause the disease.    25    2ReportSpamDon Khan6 hours agoAmerican history escapes you my friend. Look back and see what we have don collectively. It;s the corporations that are screwing us.    6    20ReportSpam123  Add a commentReportPlease help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.CategoriesSpamChild pornography or exploitationProfanity, vulgarity or obscenityCopyright infringementHarassment or threatThreats of suicideOtherAdditional comments(optional) 100 character limitAre you sure you want to delete this comment?/**/ DATA PROVIDERS

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This is the "fiscal cliff" Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has been warning about. It's real. It's coming. And soon, it will be all that Wall Street's chatterboxes are talking about.

The problem is that we can no longer avoid the hard fiscal choices we've been avoiding -- a topic I've written about frequently.

We needed meaningful stimulus to boost short-term growth and slash the "cyclical" portion of the deficit related to our mediocre recovery. Not only would more vigorous growth cut the deficit by increasing tax revenues and cutting expenditures on things like food stamps, Medicaid and unemployment benefits, it would also clear the way to address the deeper "structural" deficit.

This is the real crux of the problem. And there are no easy answers. What do we do about out-of-control health care costs? Or a bloated Pentagon budget? Or a share of tax revenue, as a percentage of GDP, that has returned to levels not seen in 60 years?

The problem is worsened by demographics. More older Americans and fewer young workers to support them will put additional strain on the federal budget. Any increase in interest rates if the Federal Reserve loses control of inflation will compound the problem via higher payments on existing debt. It's an untenable position.

The White House and Congress have had their chance over the last few years to thread this policy needle, mixing short-term stimulus with medium-term austerity and essential reforms. Instead, political bloodlust killed any chance of mindful bipartisanship. The recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission were ignored, and the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -- the "supercommittee" -- simply failed to produce results.

A big part of the reason analysts at Standard & Poor's pulled our AAA rating back in August was our dysfunctional politics. Democrats and Republicans didn't address the issues. And they didn't merely kick the can down the road -- they held all of us hostage to 11th-hour brinkmanship as the debt ceiling approached to score points with far-left and the far-right extremists.

You see, after years of fiscal irresponsibility, we face an inescapable dilemma: We fly off the fiscal cliff, cutting the deficit by crushing the economy and, like Europe now, repeating the mistakes of the 1937 Great Depression double-dip; or we swerve, keep our tax cuts and benefits but watch in horror as a lingering deficit doubles the national debt over the next 10 years.

Economic research suggests both higher debt and deep short-term austerity limit economic growth. So we can pick our poison. You want the hurt now or later?

What's worse is that the choice must be made with a gun to the head. The chart above shows that we're fast approaching the new, raised debt ceiling.

A decision on all of these issues -- the deficit, the debt ceiling, tax cuts and unemployment benefits -- will need to be made in the context of a fierce, polarized presidential election, the lame-duck congressional session that will follow and an even-more-divided government in 2013. Prediction markets suggest President Barack Obama will win re-election and Republicans will hold the House and retake the Senate.

Don't listen to this KOO KOO folks! He's just another Republican/Tea Partier/Libertarian snake, spewing his venom.

 

Doom and Gloom = REALITY!

There is no such thing as monetary inflation! Print away and distribute the wealth equally amongst the masses. That is the only way towards the road to prosperity for all!

"Meet Anthony Mirhaydari and other gurus at the Moneyshow in Las Vegas." Are you kidding me? I still haven't figured out how this guy makes any money without spreading doom and gloom to short the market. Count on this...when President Obama is re-elected and short-selling gets restricted then Tony will be unemployed. One thing you are not factoring in is the acceleration of manufacturing cars that reduces our dependence on foreign oil. As oil comes down, airlines will be able to offer low fares again and the global tourism trades will once again flourish. The Senate and Congress need to be stripped bare of anyone older than 40 so we can reclaim our country and purge the corruption. The GOP has fought Obama on every move to increase taxes on the rich, go after foreign tax havens, expose our CIA payments to arab dictators (hush money for Big Oil) and create a fairer healthcare system for legal citizens. The GOP pays for free healthcare for illegal aliens with our tax dollars and then shames Americans who want more affordable healthcare for their legal families. No more filthy rich trust fund baby bible thumpers in the White House! Vote Obama! DOW 14,000 by Christmas!

@ T D (dicherico)

 

in response to your question about the $8.00 p/hr

 

 

It would be very tough, but that person can go to school, get a degree then make more money.  Work more than 40 hrs a week, or work 2 jobs.  Live with roommates, join the military.  Collect cans, mow lawns, baby sit, wash cars etc...

 

Garden to get your food bill down.  eat rice and ramen

 

Working for hrs a week is not mandatory. 

 

@ T D (dicherico)

 

The main reason to cut welfare is there is not gain from it.  What comes out of it?  It's funny there are signs if forests stating "Don't feed animals"  It creates dependency, the animals are smart and they stop working for their food, they become dependent on people giving them food.  Welfare is the same.  I do understand people need help at times; there should be a way to do that.  However, long term welfare should not be an option.  Kind of like unemployment, it's not long term, but you pay into it.

 

Also why go after successful people and/or business?  If you came up with a widget and everyone wanted it, you have the right to charge more money for it.  If you get too greedy and get crazy with the price, someone else will come up with a better widget, and then you lose money.

I do agree there should not be price gouging.  

 

Perhaps the reward for minor innovation is unbalanced e.g. facebook and other social websites.  What benefit to humanity or science is facebook? 

Perhaps education is underrated and needs to be innovated.

Stamping out students like crates of eggs or iron mouldings might be good generally.

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