WORRIED TRADERS: If Congress and the White House fail to head off a fall over the "fiscal cliff," the biggest wild card may be the financial markets' reaction. Some say it could be a panicky sell-off that triggers economic reversals worldwide.
ONE VIEW: Wall Street could be so disgusted or dismayed that stocks would plummet before lawmakers could prove their willingness to mitigate the fiscal cliff's harshest measures, including deep, across-the-board spending cuts that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says could significantly damage the nation's military posture.
ANOTHER VIEW: But so far, the stock markets have stayed calm. The S&P 500 index is up 12 percent for the year. That might be because investors agree that a temporary trip over the cliff wouldn't be too harmful. Chastened lawmakers, the thinking goes, would quickly minimize the economic damage with a deficit-reduction compromise that eluded them in December.