News / USA

    Christmas Cheer Giving Way to Fiscal Cliff Fears

    The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is pictured against a backdrop of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, December 4, 2012.
    The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is pictured against a backdrop of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, December 4, 2012.
    Most of the Christmas holiday celebrations are over. So, for many Americans, thoughts are turning from joy and good cheer to gloom and doom as President Barack Obama and lawmakers approach the looming fiscal cliff - a combination of tax hikes and federal spending cuts that could push the country back into recession.  

    Economic fears have been on the mind of holiday shoppers, like Holly Hill in Atlanta, who had thought about spending more this Christmas.

    "We have cut back assuming that Congress and the president and the country are going to go over the fiscal cliff. And we're hopeful, though, that they can work together and figure something out and do what's best for this country," Hill said.


    What is the U.S. Fiscal Cliff?

    • An agreement intended to force politicians to compromise and make deals.
    • Without a deal by January 1, 2013, sharp spending cuts would hit military and social programs.
    • Tax hikes also would go into effect.
    • The combination would reduce economic activity, and could boost unemployment and push the nation back into recession.
    Time to reach a deal, however, is quickly running out. Across-the-board tax hikes and deep spending cuts take effect on January 1 unless the president and lawmakers reach some sort of agreement. The latest polling from the Gallup Organization shows only 50 percent of Americans still think a deal is possible - almost 10 percentage points fewer than one month ago.

    Gallup Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport said, "One thing that really comes through in the data, in our Gallup polling and in other polls, is how much Americans think that their elected representatives in the nation's capital should compromise. The public out there strongly says compromise. Figure out a way to give in some on your principles so you reach an agreement."

    In an environment where politicians are so often led by public opinion, however, Gallup said the public has not been able to offer up any solutions.

    Still, Marc Goldwein with the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is somewhat optimistic. He said, "If you look at where the president was and where the speaker [Republican House Speaker John Boehner] was just a week or so ago, they were so close. There's definitely differences to be hammered out and it's not clear we can do that in a week but they're so close that I do hold out some hope that we can get back to that go-big mentality."

    Some analysts worry anything less than a comprehensive solution on taxes and spending  - any deal that just delays the most difficult budget choices - will make the problems more difficult to solve.

    And Don Kettl, dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, said the ramifications go beyond America's borders - with the rest of the world looking in.

    "They're looking at us not only in terms of why can't we get our budget act together, but also there's a more fundamental question of whether the U.S. can lead and govern any longer," he said.

    Kettl puts the odds of getting a deal by the New Year's deadline at 50-50. He said in some ways it gets back to high-stakes politics - neither the president nor Republican lawmakers wanting to look like they were the one who gave in first.

    Jeff Seldin

    Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora