This is usually the time of year when people reflect on the past year, smile about the successes and take note of the failures, and look ahead to a new year with hope for a better future.
This year, however, Americans are looking ahead to a year that could start with a tumble into a new recession, due to the major failure of past year. Congress and the White House have (so far)?failed to come up with a debt reduction plan that would stave off the automatic tax increases and draconian federal spending cuts. They had a chance to set the country on a more sensible course, but stubborn partisanship has held up any possible action.
Congress has today left to come up with a plan all can agree on, and get it passed.
Observers and analysts agree that if a last minute deal is even possible, it will likely fall far short of the kind of legislation either side had been looking for. There may be some middle-class tax break extensions, and a few timid budget cutting measures, but nowhere near the kind of change needed to significantly change the course of the country.
Economists fear that the tax increases and across-the-board budget cuts that will arrive on Tuesday without any intervening deal will slam our still-tender economy, driving it back into recession. Some think we are facing a fiscal "slope" rather than a cliff, with the effect of the changes coming gradually rather than immediately. But come they will.
So this is definitely not a fresh new year full of promise and hope. It is a new year that is overshadowed by the failures of the past to a signficant degree. So celebrate tonight. There may not be much to celebrate tomorrow.