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Congress and the president have got to stop playing chicken

The Chicago Tribune

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 20 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

The following editorial appeared recently in the Chicago Tribune:

Congress and the president have got to stop playing chicken as the country approaches the edge.

Some $600 billion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts and tax hikes known as the fiscal cliff go into effect Jan. 1 — unless leaders in Washington come up with a budget deal involving more selective, less harmful cuts and hikes. These should be real fixes, not patches that just push the problems a few months out and continue the uncertainty surrounding the nation's fiscal situation.

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini added his voice this week to growing clamor to get it done. On CNBC's Squawk Box, he accurately described the fiscal cliff as a "financial superstorm" that could decimate the economy. Certainly that's true for Connecticut: The cliff would cut defense spending, on which this state depends, by $55 billion. Bertolini said Aetna, the giant insurer based in Hartford, is already preparing for layoffs.

Washington's dallying is undermining confidence in its ability to solve any problem. It's rattling the markets and threatening to throw the U.S. back into recession and an estimated 3 million-plus people out of jobs.

It would be irresponsible to miss the Jan. 1 deadline and let the mayhem begin. Some Democrats like the idea, saying Republicans would be blamed for refusing to raise taxes on the rich, as President Obama proposes. To do nothing would mean mass layoffs, terrified markets, unthinking cuts in essential programs. And surely Democrats would also be blamed for the bloodletting that would follow.

Obviously both parties will have to share in the sacrifice — some tax hikes, some spending cuts. Get going. This is not Greece.

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