The so-called fiscal cliff, a creation of Washington politicians, means that a tsunami of tax increases and spending cuts will batter the American economy, due to, among other things, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. As the United States is still coping with a severe economic crisis, and depends on structural mega-deficits to keep its economy afloat, the fiscal cliff threatens to derail for what passes for an economic recovery-one that is feeble at best.
The hope of forestalling a major fiscal drag on a weak American economy is a compromise involving increased revenue generation combined with selective spending cuts. But the Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, and the Democrats, who control the White House and the Senate, thus far are unable to compromise. Thus, global markets watch in stupefied wonder as the American political establishment morphs into a circular firing squad, as witnessed with the latest shenanigan.
House speaker John Boehner boasted that his GOP caucus would pass his so-called "Plan B," which offered feeble tax increases along with far more massive social spending cuts, while leaving military spending increases intact. However, even a token tax increase limited to only those earning more than one million dollars per annum, was more than the Tea Party stalwarts of the GOP could stomach. Instead of a vote, Boehner embarrassingly withdrew his own "Plan B," and in the process turned what passes for the modern-day Republican Party into a laughing stock. Meanwhile, America's creditors watch nervously, as the political games in Washington continue undiminished, while thoughtful economic policy takes a back seat to ideological priorities.
Amid tepid economic growth that can only be maintained by massive fiscal deficits, the political establishment in Washington DC, especially within the GOP, is looking increasingly dysfunctional to a world in which America's economic dominance is likely to be surpassed by the new emerging economic giants, China and India, perhaps within the next 10-20 years. Unless a moment of sanity can prevail in Washington, whereby economic policy is crafted by real economists instead of fringe ideological movements, the fiscal cliff that will ensue will contribute significantly towards the permanent economic decline of the United States.