Fiscal certainty, for a limited time only

November 24, 2012 

President Barack Obama and Congress should take a lesson from Black Friday shoppers: Arrive early for the deal. Amid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, lawmakers in Washington will resume shopping for a solution to the fiscal cliff in the week ahead. There were encouraging but slow signs of progress before Thanksgiving. Now time is running short for movement toward a conclusion.

Congressional and White House staffers have been talking about what they can reasonably accomplish before year's end. There's no grand bargain on either side's shopping list. Instead, expect more stocking stuffers on extending some of the lower-income tax rates for awhile and shifting spending cuts away from the military.

After the first meeting between the president and the four top congressional leaders, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid was so encouraged he floated the idea of a deal before Christmas. For an institution reluctant to act except when facing a solid deadline, that seems to be optimistic.

Corporate America isn't betting on a door-buster deal. Twenty of the 40 biggest publicly traded companies will

spend less money investing in new equipment and technology this year or next year, according to the Wall Street Journal. This isn't because of politics. Corporate bosses don't make business decisions based upon blue or red. They think in green. Their reluctance indicates worries about slowing demand, even though the holiday lines at the cash register may be long.

Tom Hudson, anchor and managing editor of "Nightly Business Report," can be followed on Twitter HudsonNBR.

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