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U.S. Fiscal Brinkmanship: Too Close to Cliff's Edge

At the last minute, Congress and the President reached a compromise that protected a few line items from the sequester, such as certain student aid programs. Apart from the discrete line items that were shielded from the fallout of the Fiscal Cliff, all the compromise really did was delay the decision about the sequester for another two months, pushing the date for the implementation of the cuts back to March 1, 2013.

What is different about the way the political parties, Congress and the President, have behaved in light of the current fiscal challenge is that they seem to be engaging in a kind of inertial ambivalence. With more than a year to work something out before the first sequestration deadline, all parties waited until the last minute to sit down at the table. Again, after buying themselves almost two months to work things out, neither side appeared to broach the issue except in the couple weeks leading up to the sequestration. Much of that "dialogue," however, was characterized by public posturing and finger pointing.

Historically, when faced with a sequester situation, especially an enormous one, the parties have sat down in the weeks and months before the deadline and worked out a deal to avoid the cuts. Today's Republicans and Democrats seem to have lost the will, the ability, the desire – or all three – to compromise.

Nor does either side seem to remember its own part in the process that led up to the sequestration. President Obama, in the hours leading up to the deadline, downplayed the effects, but clearly laid the blame at the feet of the Republicans. "This is not the apocalypse," he told reporters. "It's just dumb." (Hennessey and Parsons) Not all Americans, such as college students who stand to lose financial aid dollars or single mothers whose children have lost their Head Start slots, may agree with the President's claim about the apocalypse. Many, however, likely agree with him completely about how "dumb" it is.

Works Cited

Cantrill, Libby and Josh Thimons. "Falling off the Fiscal Cliff?" Web. 12 Oct. 2012.

Hennessey, Kathleen and Christi Parsons. "Obama: Budget cuts no apocalypse, 'just dumb.'" Los Angeles Times. 1. Web. 1 Mar. 2013. <,0,745122.story>

Hoagland, G. William, Steve Bell, Loren Adler and Shai Akabas. "Origins of the Sequester." Bipartisan Policy Center. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

Knoller, Mark. "National debt has increased more under Obama than under Bush." Web. 19 Mar. 2012.

Uberti, David. "Obama slams GOP on spending cuts." The Boston Globe. 1. Web. 1 Mar. 2013. <>

U.S. Government Printing Office. "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009." Public Law 111-5. 17 Feb. 2009. Web.



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