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Wasted time: Is Washington ready to work?

Immediately after President Obama won reelection the focus in Washington, D.C., turned to avoiding the fiscal cliff. It was a reminder of just how little has been accomplished in the nation's capital in the last four years.

The "fiscal cliff" refers to the $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts ($400 billion in tax hikes, only $100 billion in spending cuts) set to take effect at the end of this year if the President and Congress cannot agree to another arrangement in time. Economists of all political leanings agree that the failure to reach a deal will plunge the economy into another recession.

The inability of Washington to reach a deal to lower the debt and bring the budget closer to balance was a huge failure of the last four years. It was not the only one. We are no closer to fixing Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security than we were when President Obama took office. We are more than $5 trillion deeper in debt. The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in January of 2009, when Obama was sworn in as President. It is 7.9 percent now. The tax code remains a tangle of growth-choking complexity, institutions that are "too big to fail" still pose huge risks to our national economy, and health insurance prices continue their upward march.

The longer the agonizingly slow pace of this recovery persists, the clearer it becomes how much time both sides squandered. The American people voted on Tuesday to give Washington a little more time. But there is not much left. If they don't use it wisely, we are all going to pay a heavy price.

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