It's official. The United States will be going over the fiscal cliff tonight

The House will not vote on the fiscal cliff tonight so we’re going over it like a tractor-trailer without brakes plunging down a steep mountainside into an abyss.

Happy New Year. And don’t forget to toast dysfunctional partisanship tonight.
How insane is it that the biggest threat to our economy is Congress? Those folks just blew it!
Dick Clark must be rocking and rolling in his grave.
If this is omen about what kind of year 2013 will be, I guess 13 is an unlucky number.

Last-minute tax deal getting thisclose?

Fiscal cliffs are to pocketbooks what tsunamis are to beach chairs.

With the countdown running out of numbers to county, this whole mess is stickier than pine tar.
Call it gallows humors, but Barack Obama was almost giddy today when he brought a group of middle-class families to the White House for a televised address in which he declared that a last-minute tax deal was “within sight…but it’s not done.”

The optics were obvious, to show actual Americans who would be hit by a tax hike averaging $2,000 if Congress didn’t salvage a compromise.

The president told jokes and bantered with the assembled citizens.
And he also took a jab at Congress, saying it never did anything until the “last second.”
That crack didn’t play well on Capitol Hill, with a Republican backlash threatening doomsday.
While the rest of us are gearing up for New Year’s Eve parties to drown our financial woes, it seems that talks between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have agreed to raise taxes on incomes above $400,000 or $450,000, extend unemployment insurance and limit increases in the estate tax.

But as Obama noted, the tentative package does not deal with deep automatic spending cuts, and that is what is holding up the process. The Democrats want to block those cuts for a year, and the Republicans are balking.
Can’t these folks ever agree? Perhaps they should party together today and hammer this out over a few drinks.

Lurie kisses Reid goodbye in a love fest of an execution

Everybody knew that Jeff Lurie was going to pink slip Andy Reid today. And he did.
But Lurie didn’t knock out Reid with a barroom left you could see coming from Wichita.
Lurie praised Reid effusively while burying his friend. Lurie even gave Andy a game ball. Suffice it to say, the owner didn’t pull a Brutus-knifing-Julius Caesar exit.
You knew Lurie hated to jettison Reid, but had no choice when the Eagles, playing like stuffed sausages, lost more this season than a Jenny Craig class.
Lurie said he already has a list of coaching candidates and he’s checking it twice to see who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. He says he wants a leader of men who is innovative and who will hire a strong coaching staff.
The coaching search promises to be a bit more involved than how North Korean dictators are chosen.
Lurie also likely will hire a head coach who shows emotion and is a little more charismatic dealing with the media than Reid, who always looked more uncomfortable at press conferences than a suspect playing 20 Questions with the Gestapo.
A coach who plays well on television will help reenergize a fan base that had its rooter busted this season.
Lurie also gave GM Howie Roseman plaudits for his talent evaluation and exonerated him from blame for all drafts up to the 2012 draft, which Roseman oversaw. By deduction, you didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that the guy Lurie held responsible was Joe Banner, now running the Browns.
When asked what went wrong with the Reid era, Lurie gave an insightful answer.”It’s a great question. I don’t think there’s a short answer. It’s a complicated one,” Lurie said. “[When] you’re so close to winning a Super Bowl, at some stage you have an opportunity to think that the next move, even if it’s not consistent with all of your previous moves will be the one that gives you the chance to win the Lombardi Trophy, and I think that in the last year or so, last couple of years, we’ve done things that have not been as consistent — they’ve been more scattered in terms of decision-making.”When you start to reach for short-term panaceas or short-term solutions that are not consistent with your culture and your football program, that’s when you end up 4-12.”

With his Birds bludgeoned by the Giants, Reid fails to flee with booty before the coup

It was Andy Reid’s last stand today.

His players hardly had his back. I guess they heard reports that Reid was told Friday he will get the ax Monday so his troops figured they were going into battle with a headless lame duck.

For those of you without access to spell check, there is no I in team. But there is one in quit.

On a cold, crappy, wind-buffeted afternoon at MetLife Stadium, the Eagles left their testosterone pills untouched and were clubbed into a convulsing 42-7 heap by the Giants.

Their effort, or the lack thereof, was so disgraceful they should fear deportation proceedings. They say Belarus is nice this time of year.

Rest assured, the new coaching staff will be shipping out players like Christmas hams.

All the problems that have plagued the Birds were in attendance Sunday — coverage blunders, bad tackling and terrible turnovers.

For those of us brave enough and stupid enough to watch these last rites, it left all of us with eyes as glazed as a Krispy Kreme.

The Eagles finished a tragic 4-12. It is the worst record of Reid’s 14 years in Philadelphia and the most losses since the team finished 3-13 in Ray Rhodes’ final season in 1998.

Reid must hear a metronome inside his head.

Because as he was bludgeoned throughout the season, he remained cemented to his script of “time’s yours” and taking full responsibility and needing to put his players in a better position.

On a day of closure soaked in futility, it’s going to take an awful strong chaser to wash behind the bitter taste of a season and an era gone horribly wrong.

Big White House powwow with Big Cheeses just may save everyone of us

John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are coming over to the White House this afternoon to help Barack Obama take down his Christmas lights and help regrout some bathtubs.

There are also rumors that they must might mention those two dirty words: fiscal cliff.

Obama, while serving his guests leftover Christmas ham, cookies and egg nog, may propose a scaled-down offer to help resolve the standoff.

The president reportedly may offer to extend the Bush-era tax rates for incomes under $400,000, as he had done previously before negotiations blew up in Santa and Scrooge’s faces.

For those of you scoring at home, and we hope you are, Obama originally had set that threshold at $250,000. But in this age of Twitter, nobody sets things in stone anymore. Republicans may push back and ask for $500,000 to help their rich friends avoid bankruptcy and paupers’ prison.

Furthermore, Republicans would be granted an extension of the current estate tax, which is a 35 percent rate over a $5 million threshold. The president wants a 45 percent rate on a $3.5 million threshold but would likely be willing to bend because even Democrats think his proposal is Looney Tunes.
The deal would include an extension of unemployment benefits and various tax breaks for businesses and lower-income workers, making all of them smile like jack-o-lanterns.
In a concession to Republicans, it would not include the infrastructure funding that the president has requested to help stimulate economic growth, which means the Penn Street Bridge will be falling down any day now.
It would also allow the current payroll tax cut to expire, meaning that individuals would see larger withholdings in their paychecks, which has yours truly more enraged than a digestive tract exiting a Taco Bell.
Finally, such a scaled-down offer likely would merely serve as a placeholder while lawmakers assemble a larger bill to take its place.
And then they can do other fun chores around the White House.

With the debt ceiling evidently arriving before the Times Square Ball drops, only Tim Geithner can save Uncle Sam from becoming six feet of penny wrappers

Apparently our government will hit the debt ceiling on Monday, which by dumb luck just happens to be New Year’s Eve.
Nothing like ringing out the old year with bad news. Dick Clark must be rolling over in his grave. Ryan Seacrest must be inconsolable.
As a result, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner today told Congress via letter (this guy doesn’t email or text?) that the Treasury Department will soon start using what it calls “extraordinary measures” to prevent government borrowing from exceeding the legal limit.
Soon? Why not yesterday? Or the day before? And don’t give me that Christmas holiday humbug stuff.
Some of those extraordinary measures are more bad news than getting just a can of spinach for Christmas. For instance, they include suspending the reinvestment of federal workers’ retirement account contributions in short-term government bonds.
On Monday, debt subject to the limit was just $95 billion below the $16.394 trillion debt ceiling.
All told, the extraordinary measures can create about $200 billion of headroom under the limit — normally about two months worth of borrowing.
But it’s unclear how much time the extraordinary measures can buy now because there are so many unanswered questions about tax and spending policies, Geithner said, referring to the lack of any resolution of the fiscal cliff (oh, that damn thing again).
So what happens if we hit the debt ceiling, outside of Uncle Sam suffering a nasty bump on his head?
Well, Treasury won’t be able to pay all the country’s bills in full and on time. At that point, the United States will run the very real risk that it could default on some of its obligations.
Yep, the debt ceiling is where our credit rating goes to die.
Which means no highway work will take place in Pennsylvania when it’s New Jersey’s turn to use the asphalt mixer.
Which means the nation’s manufacturing will be reduced to making umbrella stands out of the hard heads on Capitol Hill and in the White House.
The whole mess right now seems as unstoppable as a woman’s tears. Actually, make that a man’s and a woman’s tears.
After all, President Obama has been crying in public of late.
This whole economic nightmare is like riding a lion with psoriasis: We’d like to get off but we don’t have the smarts nor the guts to try.

Be still my heart is not a good thing on Christmas Day

Merry Christmas, everyone!

By the way, be careful tomorrow. Christmas is the most lethal day of the year. And it’s not because people strangle themselves with the ugly tie or scarf their Uncle Louie bought them.

Is it the food that breaks your heart?

Well, there are other days of gluttony like Thanksgiving, Easter and Super Bowl Sunday and they don’t have the Grim Reaper working overtime like he does on Christmas.

Is it the combination of food and family … a deadly one-two punch to those who overindulge in both?

Well, what about Thanksgiving when the family gathers around the dinner table to gorge themselves and even treat gravy as a beverage?

So what gives? Is it Scrooge’s revenge? Is it the Christmas bills that soon will come due?

Nah, it’s not seeing a doctor in timely fashion.
With overcrowded emergency rooms and many doctor offices short-staffed or closed for the holidays, people with egg nog and Christmas cookies hardening in their arteries don’t get the medical attention they need.

Which is why New Year’s Day is the second deadliest day of the year.

God help us all when that Grinch of Obamacare kicks in.

Andy Reid doesn't leave them laughing

If today was Andy Reid’s last game coaching the Eagles at the Linc, as the Mayans and Nostradamus have predicted, Big Red went out a loser.

Back when the Birds were winning NFC East titles and reaching the NFC title game on as regular basis as the sunrise, who would have envisioned Reid waddling off into the sunset with a dilapidated 4-11 record?

As exits go, this was no grand farewell.

Granted, veteran Eagles’ fans whose average age is coma have seen seasons equally as dismal.

But none of those dreary campaigns began with the Great Expectations this one kicked off with.

If you recall, there actually were some folks who picked the Eagles to win the Super Bowl.

Imagine that.

Today’s 27-20 loss to the Redskins reflected the agonizing frustration of the season: It ended on an intentional grounding call with the Eagles perched a mere 5 yards short of the end zone.

Reid’s predestined exit hardly was the focal point of Eagles’ disciples, who inhabit the most passionate cathedral in the NFL.

Reid, once their revered high priest, was received with indifference before the game. No booze-fueled invective was showered upon him.

There was a mix of cheers and boos at the game’s conclusion — the former directed at the head coach and his legacy, the latter aimed at the team and the loss.

Who knows what’s next for the Eagles and Reid?

Perhaps the Birds will hire Nick Saban or Chip Kelly and win five straight Super Bowls.

Perhaps Reid will become a ballerina.

Somehow I suspect the immediate future for both the team and their lameduck coach will be much more pedestrian.

The NRA school supplies list: Glue sticks, scissors, No. 2 pencils, ballpoint pens, erasers, highlighters, notebooks and a good guy with a gun

You just knew that the NRA was going to come out firing with guns blazing.
That’s what they do: Pull the trigger.
No muzzles for them.
NRA top gun Wayne LaPierre, in response to the mass shootings in Newtown, today called for armed police officers to be posted in every American school to stop the next killer “waiting in the wings.”
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre said.
Granted, it sure doesn’t hurt to have a good guy with a gun on hand when a bad guy with bad intentions and a gun shows up.
But is one good guy with a gun per school enough?
After all, some schools have multiple buildings. And suppose the good guy with a gun is in the biology lab when the bad guy with a gun begins firing in the cafeteria?
Perhaps we need a good guy with a gun in every classroom, café and gym.
By the way, apparently there is something like 100,000 public schools in the country. And since the good guys had all better be packing assault rifles with high-capacity magazines, the cost would be astronomical.
LaPierre said that we can siphon the money from foreign aid, but that budget apparently no longer is buying air conditioners for everyone in the Congo and space heaters for everybody in Iceland.
LaPierre blamed video games, movies and music videos for contributing to our violent culture and he gets no argument here.
Besides, I make it a habit to never argue with a good guy with a gun.
Actually, that goes for a bad guy with a gun, too.
I didn’t sculpt the Zeke physique to wind up with more holes than Swiss cheese.

Boehner scraps his fiscal cliff plan after failing to get votes

John Boehner has the worst job in America. Even the guys who follow and clean up after the elephants during parades have a sweet gig in comparison.
Boehner just can’t keep his fractious, Tea Party-inspired members in line. Those dudes treat Boehner as if his nickname was Lefty.
Boehner took it on the chin Thursday night. And since his jaw is as square as a deck of cards, that is some big-time hurt.
He failed to muscle a controversial fiscal cliff fallback plan through the House, suddenly pulling the bill after spending almost week on a plan that Democrats called a waste of time.
“The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass,” Boehner said in a statement. “Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff. The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the January 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation’s crippling debt. The Senate must now act.”
Apparently, the Senate is no rush to act even as we careen ever closer to the fiscal cliff. Reid declared earlier Thursday that the Senate will recess Friday until two days after Christmas. After all, there is egg nog to sip and mistletoe to stand under.
That would leave less than five full days to find a way around the cliff, which Congress itself created by mandating in last year’s debt-ceiling agreement that some $1 trillion in budget cuts start kicking in after Jan. 1. That’s also when Congress has mandated that all of the Bush-era tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 expire.

Boehner’s Plan B would prevent tax hikes on all but those Americans making over $1 million a year, and would extend the current tax rates for the rest of Americans. The White House has said that President Obama would veto the measure, The delay casts doubt on whether Boehner even has enough support from his own party to bring Plan B to a House vote.
Besides having a glass jaw, Boehner must feel like a fool for sucking up to the extremists in his party. He has to have pulled groin muscles while straddling the great divide between the far right and the more moderate.
Obama campaigned very clearly on restoring Clinton tax rates for those earning over $250,000. He won decisively. The Democrats won the Senate. Only gerrymandering managed to turn a popular vote defeat for the GOP into a majority in the House. Obama already made a concession on rates: agreeing to a limit of $400,000. Boehner’s response? Not to take the compromise but to unilaterally hold a vote on a limit of $1 million.
Only to have it all blow up like a firecracker in his face.