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Professor says fiscal cliff more like 'perfect storm'

Much-discussed federal deadline focus of talk set next week in Clintonville

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

It tends to hurt when someone falls off a cliff.

It will hurt the whole nation if Congress leads it off a figurative cliff, says Paul A. Beck, professor emeritus of political science at Ohio State University.

On Monday, Dec. 3, Beck will offer a talk on the much-discussed subject of the "fiscal cliff" facing the country.

His appearance at the Whetstone branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 3909 N. High St., will be sponsored by the Council for Public Deliberation, League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Columbus and the library.

The program will run from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

The so-called fiscal cliff actually is a combination of things, Beck said recently from Colorado where he was visiting his children. It's a sort of "perfect storm," he added, of expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts.

The issue no longer can be kicked down the road by Republican and Democrat members of Congress who have been unable to find any common ground regarding the tax cuts that were enacted in 2000 during President George W. Bush's administration or the drastic cuts in spending that were contained in a bipartisan agreement aimed at resolving the country's debt crisis, the professor said.

The tax cuts, not only those for the wealthy opposed by President Barack Obama and the Democrats but also the ones for middle-class families which they favor, expire at the end of 2012 if Congress takes no action, Beck pointed out.

Without a compromise between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, drastic reductions in spending for domestic programs and defense would take place.

"The cuts were, by agreement of the two parties, to be half from domestic spending, about half from defense spending," Beck said.

"They would be basically wielding a meat cutter," he said. "It hits things that everybody uses."

For example, at the time the Federal Emergency Management Agency is seeking additional funding to help deal with the aftermath of Sandy, the automatic reduction would take $878 million of the agency's budget -- $600 million of that from disaster relief, according to the professor.

"The real problem is that if we go off the so-called fiscal cliff ... we could go easily back into recession, and that problem with that is it makes the problem even worse," Beck said.

"One wonders how markets will react to this."

He doubts that no action will be taken, but he also said he doubts anything will happen anytime before the deadline.

In other words, almost assuredly this will still be a hot topic by the time he's scheduled to speak next week.

"I think it will be right up to the wire," Beck said.

"I think we will see some signs if there is progress that some agreement can be made, (but) Congress is very much inclined not to do something until it absolutely has to."

 

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