The U.S. economy was in limbo leading up to the election — awaiting a direction. Now that the election has passed, the stalled state of progress is yet again on display as many pray for a miracle of consensus in the U.S. Congress. Perhaps it is time for lawmakers to either make a decision or deal with the consequences of their inaction. The possible outcomes — including a recession, modest growth in the economy or something more dramatic — could help the country begin again at ground zero on a number of key issues.

Indecision in Congress will mean across-the-board spending cuts, but it doesn’t end there. Payroll tax cuts will expire, unemployment will rise, and the national deficit would begin a downward trajectory. It is a mix of good and bad, but it might be time to bite the proverbial bullet and deal with the fallout because it is unlikely that Congress will make a timely decision before the looming Dec. 31 deadline. At best, the decisions will be postponed for a fourth year in each party’s quest for a majority in Congress to get their own way on policy.

Beginning with a clean slate and creating a new system — rather than tweaking a flawed tax policy — might yield a better end result. Similarly, a fresh start on benefits programs, such as long-term unemployment benefits and other social programs, would be a more efficient plan. The problem is Americans’ confidence — or lack thereof — in those representing them in Washington to hammer out solutions now, rather than continuing with rancorous party wrangling. Indecision comes at a cost, and that price ought to override lawmakers of each party’s individual stances in favor of solutions that work for the majority of Americans.

Locally, nearly 61 percent of respondents in an unscientific online Herald poll said they were concerned about the fiscal cliff; 29 percent weren’t concerned, and the remaining 11 percent responded they did not know what the fiscal cliff was. Those votes, no doubt, reflect the sentiment of the public at large who want the “fiscal cliff” uncertainty to end. Most people are willing to endure more hardship, but they want to know clearly what they are facing so they can plan for it. The current magnitude of uncertainty won’t win the fiscal cliff situation nor is it good enough to even win a game of limbo.

It is time for the games to stop and good bipartisan policymaking to begin.

 

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher