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Does Fiscal Cliff Silence Really Mean Progress?


If you look up the word ''progress" it is defined as movement toward a goal. But if you take that same word and use it within the context of the tax-and-spend talks we call the fiscal cliff negotiations, it takes on an entirely different meaning. If something is standing still or going nowhere, even the slightest movement could technically be considered progress.

To make things more confusing, the normal way that lawmakers would inform the public and gauge support for a proposed budget cut or tax increase (whether incremental or monumental) would be to float a so-called trial balloon of information through the media and then gauge reaction. But even that is gone now that the President and Congressional leadership have signed a "strict moratorium on public commentary concerning the negotiations" — a development that will make it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to assess the merits and drawbacks of a deal before it is actually reached.

Welcome to progress, Washington style!

Not to mention comment moratorium, Washington style,  This as House Speaker John Boehner opened the day's legislative session by voicing optimism while posing questions.

"Where are the president's spending cuts? The longer the White House slow-walks this process the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff," Boehner remarked.

To help fill this informational gap, my co-host Jeff Macke and I discuss the probability of reaching a deal, and if a deal is reached, what effect (if any) it would have on the stock market.

"Anything is an upside surprise," Macke says in the attached video, likening the alleged movement by a "confederacy of dunces" as the first step toward a solution that will see the Republicans buckle.

While I acknowledge that there's a widely held belief that a deal is better for investors than uncertainty, where I lose faith is in the details. Specifically, how can a bad deal be good for stocks? And how can Wall Street be positively surprised by an agreement when resolution is the consensus view? Finally, I wonder if House Speaker John Boehner can actually get his fellow Republicans to even approve a package that's heavy on tax increases and light on budget cuts.

There's another issue at stake with the moratorium, in as much as it is an acknowledgement that the clock is, indeed, running out and it's time for all parties to get serious. Which means it's time for both sides to lay down their cards and play open-handed poker within the safe and secret confines of the Oval Office. It's how they make sausage, so to speak, and maybe it's best.