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As of this posting, a deal between Congress and the White House appears to emerging to resolve the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the expiration of $5 trillion in tax cuts signed under Presidents Bush and Obama, $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts known as “sequestration,” the cessation of Unemployment Insurance for unemployed workers, and the expiration of various other tax policies, including the 2010 payroll tax cut and a range of business tax credits.

While nothing has been finalized (and indeed could easily unravel over the next few hours), the emerging deal represents a mixed bag for the nation’s working and middle-income families—it extends a range of key middle-class tax cuts, but at the same time, continues large-scale tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans—and as a result—keeps the door open for spending cuts devastating to many working families.

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A swelling chorus of advice is emerging in recent days amongst progressive thinkers and commentators about the ongoing fiscal policy negotiations in Washington. The message: “Hang tough Mr. President.”

James Protzman over at Blue NC has posted an example — a nice little video from former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.

But other are saying the same thing:

Robert Kuttner says a lot of the same things in this column, entitled “About time: Obama finally gets tough.”

Meanwhile, the experts at the Center on Economic and Policy Research have weighed in on the hysteria surrounding the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

Finally, Paul Krugman exposes the true nature of the conservative con game in this NYT column.

First the good: Conservative members of Congress are talking back to one of the capital’s biggest bullies. Think Progress reports that Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee joined a growing chorus of GOP lawmakers publicly distancing themselves from Grover “Dr. Evil” Norquist’s no tax pledge.  

Now the bad: The “compromises” being advanced by the backtalkers are a long way from acceptable. As Steve Benen notes, Lindsay Graham deserves credit for rebuking Norquist, but his alternative fiscal solution is really just a warmed over version of Mitt Romney’s plan.

 

On Tuesday, Congress returned for its long anticipated lame duck session, and first up on its agenda is addressing the looming “fiscal slope”—the expiration of $5 trillion in tax cuts signed under Presidents Obama and Bush, coupled with the phase-in of $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts to federal defense and non-defense programs known as sequestration.

As Congress engages this debate, here are the Four Key Facts you need to know: 

#1.  It’s a “fiscal slope,” not a “fiscal cliff.”  Although the tax cut expirations and spending cuts are scheduled to begin taking effect in January 2013 (leading to overheated rhetoric about a “fiscal cliff”), they will only have a gradual impact on the state’s economy.  Both sequestration and the tax cut expirations phase-in over months and years and can be replaced by Congress at any time.  This is why we call it a “fiscal slope”—because it will only affect the economy gradually.

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