by John Browne, Euro Pacific Capital, Inc.
As the clock winds down on 2012, the Fiscal Cliff is all anyone seems capable of discussing. Right now it appears that some sort of narrow deal has just emerged that will include raising tax rates on family income over $450,000 a year, increasing the estate tax rate, extending unemployment benefits for one year, and delaying spending cuts. But the prospect of higher taxes and the great uncertainty that has surrounded this fiscal fiasco has been acting like sand in the gears of the complex but sputtering U.S. economy. If additional taxes are not matched by real cuts in government spending, the economically crippling tax increases will serve merely to increase the size and intrusive power of big government. In other words, the pain will yield no gain.
But the damage to the U.S. economy will result not so much from the actual cuts and tax increases that the Cliff would involve, but from blatant dereliction of duty on display in Washington which will diminish national prestige.