Though the downward slope may be happening right now, Makin still sees a precipice coming at the start of 2013: "I think it's going to be prompt and painful."
"Businesses will continue to be uncertain, they'll continue not to hire," he says. "I think markets will be pretty alarmed, and that will produce quick feedback on the seriousness of going over the fiscal cliff."
Cliff, slope, or whatever other metaphor the event goes by, the consequences of these massive adjustments could easily be very painful. All of which points to what has been a widely accepted truth for months now: the sooner lawmakers can reach a deal, the better.
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Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at email@example.com.