The fiscal cliff was concocted by President Barack Obama and Congress as a way of holding a gun to their own heads. The fixing of a deadline for the automatic imposition of ferocious tax rises and deep spending cuts was supposed to concentrate the minds of America’s political leaders and force them into taking the difficult decisions required to start reeling in the country’s truly terrifying levels of public debt.
The stratagem has failed. There has been no "grand bargain” that addresses the root causes of the ballooning deficit — rocketing social security entitlements funded by a too-narrow tax base — just a sticking-plaster settlement aimed at buying more time. ... Given that the United States has a $16 trillion burden of debt and an annual budget deficit of $1.1 trillion, this package does not even begin to address the fiscal crisis.
Meanwhile, a new two-month deadline has been set for hammering out an agreement on spending cuts. Sounds familiar? We have been here many times already with the eurozone sovereign debt crisis when deadlines became infinitely elastic as politicians refused to take painful but necessary decisions and instead kept lobbing money at the problem.
As the powerhouse of the world economy, America cannot continue to live in denial and expect to maintain its dominant role. Its current debt trajectory is leading the country to ruination. ... Many economists believe that such a crippling level of public debt can destroy any prospect of economic growth. The impact on the global economy of such a slowdown would be disastrous.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, said: "This shouldn’t be the model for how to do things around here.” The most depressing aspect of this narrow escape is that if America’s political leaders cannot display more maturity and a far greater willingness to compromise, that is exactly how things will continue to get done.