2012: Ring in the year of indecision

Dec. 24, 2011 at 2:49 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- When the U.S. Congress kicked the can down the road on budget issues this year, a lot of those issues ended up deferred until 2012.

Most recently, Congress agreed on how to pay for a payroll tax for two months, leaving the decision on whether to extend it beyond February to another day.

The effort to put together a 12-month agreement bombed, as did the supercommittee, which allowed an opportunity to customize budget cuts to go down in flames. Instead, spending cuts, if they are allowed to continue, went to a default setting based on the Budget Control Act -- essentially, a previous impasse -- that passed in August and set up automatic spending cuts.

That leaves it for 2012 to be the year of more kicking the can or choosing a temporary solution.

In part because the economy could change course and because a national election is drawing nearer, former congressional budget analyst Stan Collender predicted there would be more can kicking, CNNMoney reported Saturday.

Expect skirmishes at least, analysts say, on whether Congress will allow the $1.2 trillion in spending cuts actually take effect. An election year offers strong incentive for incumbents to circumvent spending cuts and come off as heroes who saved local jobs.

But the other decision that likely will not be made in 2012 is what to do with the George W. Bush-era tax cuts that could lose a potential $3.7 trillion in federal deficit-reducing revenue if they are all extended or $3 trillion if the cuts are extended for lower- and middle-income workers.

Indecision might leave President Barack Obama the high road, Collender said.

From the White House, "I expect a go-big, $3 trillion to $4 trillion deficit reduction plan," he said.

How that idea fares is yet to be seen.

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