An Extremely Simple Explanation of the 'Fiscal Cliff'

Did you miss all the fiscal cliff news amid the election coverage? Don't worry. We've got you covered.

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid address reporters on Nov. 7, 2012.
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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.

[ENJOY: The U.S. News Collection of Economy Cartoons]

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.

Wild ferret?

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