12/04/2012 03:23 pm ET Updated Jan 28, 2013

Cliffs Notes for the Fiscal Cliff

I have a confession. I haven't been paying as much attention as maybe I should to this latest soap opera from the no drama Obama administation, so I'm wondering if anyone knows if there are cliff notes that might explain what exactly is at stake.

There are fellows like Grover Norquist, whose name alone qualifies him for a wax museum, and whose ideology, a pledge not to raise taxes, has clearly reached its expiration date.

There are terms bandied about like "entitlements," and "small businesses" that are code for a social safety net, and taking one's business overseas.

A deadline looms large which is only weeks away, and has deja vu written all over it. In fact, this entire episode in our history can best be summed up as "been there, done that." The only ones who seems to take these negotiations seriously are the president, and his enemy twin, House speaker John Boehner, but as the song goes, "it's his Party, and he'll cry if he wants to." Everyone else in Congress acts as if they know how the story ends, or has taken Christmas vacation early.

Or, blame it on the punch.

But, you know the drill. If Congress does nothing, the Bush tax cuts will automatically expire at the end of the year, and taxes will go up on everyone. Those who will be most directly impacted will be 98 percent of taxpayers who will experience, on average, a $2,000 increase in their income taxes.

To prevent taxes from being raised on 98 percent of us, or so he contends, President Obama agreed to sign off on allowing for tax cuts on 2 percent of us who need to have their taxes cut about as much as a dog needs another tail.

This much is transparent. What is less clear is how much the president is willing to "negotiate" in order to preserve tax cuts on the vast majority of the electorate. Will he countenance cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, education? Will he deal with senators like Rand Paul who are willing to accept cuts to Defense as long as cuts to welfare, and food stamps are on the table, or will he just say no.

Will the president blink, or will he come to the table the same way he did four years ago giving the dog that extra tail, and when some historian a hundred years from now decides to write Cliff Notes for these fecund times will he, as Keith Olbermann once famous asked, distinguish between "compromise," and "being compromised?"

The only ones now waiting for the other shoe to drop are those sporting Manolo Blahniks.