Congress could also choose push the fiscal cliff provisions into next year, dealing with them in the next Congress. That might be a welcome reprieve, but it would also prolong the policy uncertainty that is making businesses leery of investing and consumers leery of spending.
But then they strike a grand bargain and all is fantastic, right?
Well, things will be better in the long term than if the U.S. continued running $1 trillion deficits indefinitely. It's worth mentioning, though, that increasing taxes or reducing government spending—both likely parts of a grand bargain—will inevitably hurt growth to some degree.
So...there's no painless way out of this?
Right. But addressing the deficit, even if it's painful, is far better than letting it be. It's sort of like getting bit by a wild ferret and either going to the doctor for a rabies shot ASAP or waiting until you are foaming at the mouth. And by then, you're just doomed.
Forgive me, I'm running out of metaphors. Also, call a doctor about your psoriasis..
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Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter @titonka or via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.