In search of a fiscal cliff deal 

Posted: 8:59 pm Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

By Jamie Dupree

As Democrats and Republicans wrangle over the details of a fiscal cliff deal, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke again warned leaders in both parties that going over the cliff, or just postponing scheduled tax increases and budget cuts should not be an option in Washington, D.C.

“There’s a problem with just kicking the can down the road,” Bernanke told a news conference on Wednesday.

Bernanke was asked a number of questions about the fiscal cliff, after the Fed Chairman announced that the Central Bank would not consider raising interest rates until the nation’s jobless rate hit 6.5%, which he doesn’t expect until at least mid 2015.

“If the economy actually went off the fiscal cliff,” Bernanke said, “that would have very significant adverse effects on the economy and on the unemployment rate.”

So, the answer is doing nothing on the budget deficit?  No.

Bernanke again made clear that is not the answer either, arguing that lawmakers must show some kind of committment to a plan that actually lowers the budget deficit long term, without doing anything to harm economic growth now.

“The most helpful thing that the Congress and Administration could do right now is find a resolution that on the one hand achieves long range fiscal sustainability, which is critical,” said Bernanke, “but also avoids derailing the recovery which is currently in process.”

But finding that kind of Goldilocks Budget Deal isn’t proving to be easy, as both sides say the other is at fault for the lack of an agreement.

“The President has made clear his willingness to negotiate and compromise,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who repeatedly pointed the finger of blame at Republicans for the lack of a deal.

“We’ve got some serious differences,” said Speaker John Boehner, who again called out the White House for not getting specific enough on budget cuts, while the White House says Boehner hasn’t been specific on how he would save money by closing tax loopholes.

“It’s now up to the President,” one Republican Senator told me on Wednesday night, saying that he knew of “no progress,” and adding that the outlook for a deal “does not look good.”

Is it just the political noise we should expect before there is a final deal?

Or are we really going off the rails here?

Boehner has told his House Republican troops to be ready to stay through the holidays.

The clock is ticking, and there’s still no deal.

Tick, tick, tick.

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