'Fiscal Cliff' primer: Congress working to avoid disaster

Credit: KTVB

KTVB's Mark Johnson talks with political scientist Dr. David Adler, director of the BSU Andrus Center of Public Policy.


by Mark Johnson

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVB


Posted on November 18, 2012 at 11:43 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 19 at 7:04 PM

BOISE -- How many times have you heard the term, "Fiscal Cliff" in the last month? The term has been getting a lot of play in the news recently because time is running out for lawmakers in Washington D.C. to act.

"Americans are going to feel the pain if we drive off this fiscal cliff," said political scientist David Adler.

"Every person in the U.S. has a huge stake here," said Sen. Mike Crapo (R, Idaho). "Literally, the American Dream is on the line."

The Federal deficit is defined by the U.S. Budget Committee as the amount of money by which government's total budget exceeds total receipts, or revenue, for the year.  Right now that number is right around $900 billion dollars in the red.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 was enacted to reduced the deficit by $600 billion over the next 10 years and it is set to go into effect in January. It includes deep cuts to nearly every federal department and ends the Bush era tax cuts and other tax increases that will effect every tax paying American.  

Businesses will be hit as well and financial forecasters say it will result in an increase in unemployment -- All of this combining to throw the country back into a recession deeper than the one we are currently climbing out of.

"I wish I had that magic wand," said Crapo. "I would say it is no secret Congress is gridlocked on nearly every issue. This one is one of the key ones."

Crapo is a member of the bi-partisan "Gang of 6," which is charged with coming up with a plan to avert the cliff.

Among the options is a ratification of the plan known as Simpson-Bowles which was the recommendation from the Chairmen of a bi-partisan Presidential Commission back in 2010. The plan that has received criticism from both sides of the isle for raising the retirement age and turning Medicaid into a voucher-to-purchase-private-insurance program.

"There will be plenty in any plan to fix our debt crisis that you have to hate in a deal that comes together," said Crapo.

If Congress cannot come up with an agreement on the Simpson-Bowles ratification, and then cannot come up enough compromises to pass a plan of their own, and the President refuses to extend the current January 1st deadline, it's over the cliff for Uncle Sam.

And, straight into the tax increases, unemployment jump, deep federal cuts and probable recession; A rough landing for the country and a scenario neither side wants.

"The immanency of this crisis is hard to overstate," said Crapo. "If we don't take action, the bond markets will solve the problem for us."

"Idahoans should be watching this story very closely because if we go off the cliff their economic lives are going to change in less than a month and a half," said Adler.  "And all the progress that Idaho families made in getting out of the recession will have gone by the wayside if in fact America's politicians in Washington are not able to put our fiscal house in order."

Congressional budget numbers crunchers are spending Thanksgiving week in Washington for negotiations that will begin again next week. Stay tuned.