Fiscal cliff looms as US lawmakers play game of brinkmanship (Barcelona) - The "fiscal cliff" steadfastly approaches and it is a fair assumption that no one will come up with a deal in time to stop the country from careening off the edge. Nearly everyone involved claims they want to avoid the automatic tax increases and colossal budget cuts that will start kicking in at the start of 2013, however few are ready to make the compromises necessary to make that happen.

As expected, anti-tax purists in the House Republican Caucus have gotten in the way of Speaker John A. Boehners attempts to come up with a fix for the fiscal cliff. Last week, he withdrew his doomed Plan B rather than let it go to a vote he knew he would lose. Democrats were united in their opposition, though what ultimately killed the scheme was the refusal of conservatives in Boehner’s own caucus to go along with a tax increase for millionaires.

Boehner now seems to have washed his hands of responsibility and says it is up to the president and Democrats in the Senate to save the country from the New Year’s program cuts and tax increases that will come so fast and furiously that the economy could suffer. President Obama cut short his Hawaii vacation to return to the snow-covered capital hoping to concoct a last-minute deal in the eleventh hour.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed will shortly offer an option he hopes Republicans cannot refuse – tt will propose to do several popular things: perpetuate George W. Bush era tax cuts for everyone earning less than $250,000 a year; keep Medicare reimbursement levels from dropping; preserve long-term unemployment benefits; stop a tax bracket slide that would expose many more citizens to the alternative minimum tax; and make a few modest spending reductions.

Even if it does next to nothing about long-term budget deficits, there is nothing in Reed’s plan that would upset most voters. If such a crowd-pleasing scheme got to the House and Boehner allowed a vote on it (as he seems to have said he would), Democrats might be joined by just enough Republicans to get the thing passed. The more difficult task could be getting it anywhere in the Senate. It takes just a single Republican die-hard to block Reed’s bill. A filibuster would only have to last until the ball drops in Times Square and 2013 would begin with the wrenching sound of an economy tumbling down a hillside.

Public opinion polls indicate Republicans are taking most of the heat for this impasse, though ultra-conservative GOP senators and House members do not fear the ire of the general public nearly as much as they quake with terror at the thought of enraging tea party zealots in their home districts. Conservative politicians would rather fly off the cliff than take a vote that would earn them opposition in the next Republican primary.

According to the Danske Research Team, “Hopes for a solution to the fiscal cliff fade as time is running out. The likelihood of a temporary fall over the cliff has risen and it seems increasingly unlikely that a ‘mega deal’, which includes a solution to the immediate fiscal cliff issue for 2013, a framework for spending cuts over the coming decade and an increase of the debt ceiling, will be reached.”