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Let's All Panic About The Fiscal Cliff Now: Seven And A Half Things To Know

11/08/2012 08:01 am ET | Updated Nov 12, 2012

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Thing One: Fiscal Cliff Death Watch: Well, that election was fun, wasn't it? Kind of not-fun in a lot of ways, but you know what I OH MY GOD IT'S THE FISCAL CLIFF LET'S ALL LOSE OUR MINDS.

That was basically how the ever-thoughtful, ever-sober U.S. stock market behaved yesterday with the turning of the calendar from election season to Fiscal Cliff Death Watch season. Yes, now that President Obama has been reelected, his immediate task is to figure out what, if anything, to do about the ticking time bomb of automatic spending cuts and tax increases that an obstructionist Congress set to go off at the end of the year. If this bomb goes off, then it could cause another recession, several economists have warned. So now this same Congress desperately wants to do something about this ticking time bomb it set, not really because it cares whether the economy goes into recession or not, but because it will immediately jack up taxes on the wealthy, and that injustice will not stand, sir. Obama, meanwhile, has every incentive just to let the stupid thing go off, so he is negotiating from a position of strength. So, again, PANIC.

Of course, Republicans in Congress aren't going to concede that they are in a position of weakness. Fanta-American Speaker of the House John Boehner declared yesterday that Obama's convincing reelection did not give the president a "mandate" to raise taxes. Let's just review the record on that one, shall we? During the election, Obama talked almost every single day, in every single setting, about the need to raise taxes on the wealthy. And then he got reelected. Maybe I don't know what a "mandate" is, but that sure sounds like he was elected to raise some taxes.

So it remains to be seen whether Boehner & Co. will play ball. Boehner seemed to hint yesterday that maybe he might be willing to accept some "higher revenue" -- i.e., tax increases -- in order to strike the fabled Grand Bargain on the deficit. But he hedged his words enough that it was difficult to tell. Meanwhile, Wall Street is going to keep panicking and freaking out from time to time during the agonizing weeks of debate, and the irrelevant credit-rating agencies will occasionally rattle their terrifying Downgrade Sticks, as Fitch did yesterday. And we will all be in increasing danger of forgetting that immediate deficit reduction is a terrible idea right now, with the economy still struggling to recover.

Here's a hint at how little the deficit really matters right now: Where did investors run yesterday as a safe haven amid all of this deficit panic? The warm embrace of U.S. Treasury bonds.

Thing Two: On The Second-Term Menu: Beyond the Fiscal Cliff, there are some other fairly pressing items on Obama's second-term punch list. The Huffington Post's Jeff Young points out that Obama's reelection means Obamacare survives, but Obama needs to take steps to make sure that Obamacare also thrives and doesn't turn into a giant white elephant that sours his legacy. No pressure or anything.

Similarly, Obama's reelection means financial reform survives. But it remains to be seen just how much revenge the president will wreak on a Wall Street that turned on him in the election and is now preparing to grovel for forgiveness.

Thing Three: Money Can't Buy Me Electoral Love: Going into this election, Democrats were panicking that Citizens United would let ultra-wealthy weirdos like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson and the Chamber of Commerce stone-cold buy the election. Instead, these bozos blew their millions in the stupidest ways possible and barely influenced anything, it turns out. Remember Adelson's Newt Gingrich love? That was awesome. It's almost as if you can't just buy an election. The Wall Street Journal has a rebuttal, in the form of a story about how Mitt Romney maybe lost because he didn't spend enough money early on, while Obama's people buried him in an avalanche of early negative advertising. The lesson here seems to be that money matters way, way too much in our politics -- but you've still got to spend it wisely.

Thing Four: Eurogeddon, Part IV: A New Hope: The European Central Bank holds a little policy meeting today, where it will warm itself over the roaring fire of the European economy. Will it do anything to help put that roaring fire out? Oh, no, don't be silly. It won't do anything. But it will recommit itself to buying up sovereign bonds to help curb the debt crisis. Meanwhile, the Greek parliament narrowly approved unpopular austerity measures to win its next round of bailout money, so that is good. But the European Union has slashed its outlook for the European economy, which is already in recession as a result of too much austerity, which is less good.

Thing Five: Meanwhile, In Actual Socialism: Speaking of important meetings, China's Communist Party Congress convened today, a week-long shindig that will mark the beginning of a "once-a-decade transition of power" in the country, at the end of which President Hu Jintao will hand over the reins to his handpicked successor, Vice President Xi Jinping. It's kind of a big deal, setting the agenda for the world's fastest-growing economy, which has hit a couple of rough patches lately. "Will the new lineup of leaders to be willing and able to radically overhaul an ossified political system and a growth model that has run out of steam?" the Wall Street Journal's Jeremy Page asks.

Thing Six: Apple Splatters: One reason the stock market has been in a funk lately is because one of its most-important companies, Apple, has been in a funk of its own. Shares of America's foremost maker of shiny distractions fell nearly 4 percent yesterday, outpacing the broader market's 2 percent decline, and are down 20 percent from their peak in late September. Apple, whose earnings absolutely dominate the total earnings of the S&P 500-stock index, has suffered from a series of blows lately, including questions about ongoing demand for its shiny distractions.

Thing Seven: Boeing Clips Wings: Aerospace giant Boeing, whose airplanes shipments distort U.S. factory data the way Apple profits distort the stock market, said yesterday it was trimming its executive ranks and merging some divisions. It's trying to save about $1.6 billion amid lower defense spending, because of socialism.

Thing Seven And One Half: Things That Are Lame: The ostensible premise of this BuzzFeed post is "28 Things That Are Worse Than Talking About Politics On Facebook," but that seems to be just an excuse to put together this fairly hilarious list of things that suck, a lot.

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Calendar Du Jour:

Economic Data:

8:30 a.m. ET: Initial Weekly Jobless Claims for the week of Nov.3

8:30 a.m. ET: International Trade Balance for September

Corporate Earnings:

After Market Close: Walt Disney

Heard On The Tweets:

-- Calendar and tweets rounded up by Alexis Kleinman

And you can follow me on Twitter, too: @markgongloff

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