With little possibility of a breakthrough on the fiscal cliff until the "last minute", inquiring minds are likely wondering what the term "last minute" precisely means.
I can help.
Please consider the Wall Street Journal article Obama Calls Boehner, Reid on 'Fiscal Cliff'.
President Barack Obama called House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid over the weekend to discuss the fiscal cliff, as staff-level negotiations have moved slowly and produced no visible signs of progress on how to avoid the tax increases and spending cuts due take effect in January.Expect Definition to Change
A broader group of negotiators that includes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, had been expected to reconvene this week, but that is now unlikely.
With each passing day, the government moves closer to the fiscal cliff, the combination of $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts that begin in January and that economists have said could tip the country back into a recession.
One veteran Democratic aide said he wasn't surprised major concessions hadn't been made, given that real deal making usually happens at the last minute, which he put at "two weeks away."
Two weeks away would be December 10, which I suggest is far too early to be considered "last minute".
As supporting evidence, I present the online Congressional Calendar for December.
Green is Senate in Session. Orange is House in Session. The green hashed bars are TBD "to be determined".
Note the Congressional calendar does not include Saturday or Sunday.
Schedule Not Finalized
Out of curiosity, I called the office of the House majority leader Eric Cantor and was told the Congressional schedule for December will not be finalized until Friday, November 30.
Thus, we will not know the semi-final definition of "last minute" until then, but right now the preliminary estimate is no sooner than Friday, December 14.
Bear in mind, should December 14 (or whatever day Congress adjourns for the year) come and go without a Fiscal Cliff deal, assume that "last minute" will be redefined to mid-January 2013 when leaders of both parties will be anxious to roll back some of the tax hikes, referring to the rollbacks as "tax cuts".
Reflections on Our Hard-Working Congressional Representatives
While waiting for the final definition of "last minute", inquiring minds just might want to take a look at other months in the Congressional Calendar to see how frequently our representatives are at work for us.
Here are some sample months to consider.
Shock and Awe
Some people are probably shocked by this. I was not only shocked but appalled.
Indeed, my very first reaction was "My God! Look at how horrendously overworked our representatives are!"
No doubt, many of you had the exact same initial reaction.
That strenuous schedule coupled with hard work explains many things, such as why we have 73,608 pages of tax code piling up month after month, year after year.
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US Congress: The Most Productive Workers on the Planet
The results speak for themselves: US Congress collectively has the most productive workers on the planet.
These horribly-overworked souls are so dedicated to churning out mind-numbing pages of legislation that any clear-thinking individual should be able to quickly spot the need to reduce the number of hours Congress is in session.
Thus, I propose Congress be in session no more than three days per month. Should that fail to dramatically reduce total the number of pages of Congressional bills, I further propose limiting Congressional sessions to alternating months.
If this sounds backwards, you just are not thinking clearly.
Everyone knows nothing gets done until the "last minute" anyway, and this clever proposal will massively increase the percentage of time worked at the "last minute" while also reducing the sheer volume of pages of legislation produced, hopefully to a readable number.
Perhaps members of Congress would even find the time to personally read the bills they sponsor.
I do not want to get hopes up too high, but my proposal might even solve the problem former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once famously described "We have to pass the health care bill so that you can find out what is in it".
So please call your representatives and tell them you support "Mish's Proposal to Reduce Congressional Sessions" but only after they reduce the number of pages in the tax code to 15.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock
"Wine Country" Economic Conference Hosted By Mish
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