I came back from the beach last week, feeling all tanned and Zen-like, just wanting to ease back into the work-a-day routine.
Instead, I found myself hurtling towards a fiscal cliff.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was the first to jolt me from my reverie, with his deadpan warnings to Congress about the likely recession that awaits the nation if nothing is done disrupt the federal spending cuts and tax hikes set to take effect at the beginning of 2013.
Bernanke was still fielding questions from lawmakers when George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis e-mailed its latest report on the impact of those cuts. A consensus is growing that the cuts are likely to reduce U.S. economic growth in 2013 by two-thirds and push up unemployment by as much as 1.5 percent points, raising the national rate above 9 percent.
The toll locally is likely to be far greater; Virginia is projected to lose 207,571 jobs as a result of the cuts, Maryland 114,795, and the District a stunning 127,407, according to George Mason’s analysis.
All this gloom was harshing my mellow, so I headed to lunch on Wednesday to take in a Economic Club of Washington sit-down with Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs.
He, too, has been thinking a lot about the fast-approaching cliff. These days, said Blankfein, who likes to believe that “statistically, things do work out,” it is easier to forecast trends for the next 10 years than it is the next 10 months.
His solution: Democrats and Republicans each need to give a little. The lack of compromise is the reason we are facing this economic precipice in the first place; the cuts are triggered automatically by inaction.
Plenty of people think a deal will be struck. But no one is certain. And in a world of uncertainty, consumers cut back on their spending. Businesses pause.
“Uncertainty makes everything worth less,” Blankfein said.