Whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney wins the election on Tuesday, on Wednesday he will face the same urgent challenge: how to stop the U.S. from falling off the fiscal cliff. But let's hope he also takes on the larger challenge of fixing a political system that has brought us close to disaster twice in two years.
Unless Congress acts, the spending cuts and tax increases that would be triggered automatically next January would take 5.1% out of the country's GDP in one year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That would be one of the most severe experiments with austerity in history--larger than anything Greece, Spain, Italy or the U.K. has tried. In fact, it is almost three times the size of Britain's program. And the results of those European austerity policies have thus far been a dramatic slowdown in economic growth and a sharp spike in unemployment. Virtually every economist who has studied this believes that similar measures, even if enacted for a few months, could push the U.S. into a double-dip recession.
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