JUST OVER three weeks remain before we reach the edge of the fiscal cliff, and in the perverse logic of how Washington functions these days, everything appears to be right on track. Disaster looms in the form of the cliff’s $607 billion of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect at year’s end. Unless Congress acts to stop it, the Congressional Budget Office says, the country will slide back into recession. Cable news stations are running countdown clocks. Both sides are bickering and pointing fingers, taking turns being “outraged” and “saddened,” and generally acting out the Kabuki ritual that presages every big Washington deal.
Most people don’t seem very worried. Markets rose this week. Citizens aren’t freaking out over the impending tax hikes. And the deal likely to be struck seems obvious, even beneficial: higher taxes on the rich in exchange for long-term entitlement reform to bring the budget back into balance.