(Cartoon: Monte Wolverton)
After the recent drama and supposed escape from the "fiscal cliff", two developing stories in Washington will affect the global economy. The first is whether Congress can pass measures to address three additional fiscal dilemmas, all of which need to be resolved by the end of March. The second, a vital sub-plot in the larger play, is the intentions and aims of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Near the end of February, the US Treasury will have exhausted all contingency measures to avoid breaching the debt limit, currently $16.4 trillion, and the US will immediately default on 40% of its fiscal obligations. America could still afford to pay foreign debts through its continual receipts of tax revenues. It could even fund Social Security and other low-income payment programs...provided it is willing to make cuts such as the closure of the FBI.
As the talks on raising the debt limit reach the status of Urgent, Congress will also have to address the "sequestration cuts", delayed for two months by the fiscal cliff deal.