Honeymoon cut by fiscal cliff for Obama

Honeymoon cut by fiscal cliff for Obama

WASHINGTON - The Associated Press
Honeymoon cut by fiscal cliff for Obama

Barack Obama (R), daughters Malia (2nd L) and Sasha (C) and first lady Michelle return to the White House for the first time since his election victory. AP photo

With the bitter election campaign that put President Barack Obama back into the White House now history, the U.S. faces the challenge of whether Republicans and Democrats can set aside deep partisan divisions and legislative gridlock.

The challenge is to overcome the self-imposed “fiscal cliff,” dramatic and automatic tax increases and spending cuts that could well slam the nation back in to recession. “Fiscal cliff” includes big tax increases for nearly all Americans and deep spending cuts, including big reductions in spending for the military and popular social programs, and it grew out of the government’s inability a year ago to reach a deal on cutting the deficit and debt that has climbed above $16 trillion.

In day-after-election remarks, Republicans signaled no readiness to give up on their ideological opposition to raising taxes on high-income Americans, as Obama has insisted, but instead were continuing to push for lower rates across the board. That theory holds that cutting taxes will vastly increase the size of the income and profit pie, thereby producing more revenue even at lower tax rates.

No quick solution

Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner laid down that position yet again as the condition for working for any increase in government revenue in return for Obama’s stated willingness to cut spending on crucial social programs. Republicans maintained control of the House.

There is no quick solution to the country’s skyrocketing debt and stubbornly high deficit that has the government now spending more than $1 trillion a year more than it collects in taxes. Now the immediate test is whether the country’s deep partisan divide can be narrowed, as Democrats under Obama’s leadership try to work out a compromise with Republicans to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” that could force spending cuts totaling $800 billion next year alone.

New York, New Jersey brace for new storm

NEW YORK – The Associated Press

Coastal residents of New York and New Jersey faced new warnings to evacuate their homes and airlines canceled hundreds of flights as a new storm arrived on Nov. 7, only a week after Superstorm Sandy left dozens dead and millions without power. Forecasters said the latest storm appeared weaker than first thought, but it still carried the threat of high winds, storm surges and even snow that could cause further damage to the already weakened infrastructure of the country’s most densely populated region.