As fiscal cliff approaches, lawmakers demand plans - KMSP-TV

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As fiscal cliff approaches, lawmakers demand plans

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Flickr/Creative Commons/Kevin Burket Flickr/Creative Commons/Kevin Burket

Though the clock is still winding down, the discussions about how to avert the so-called "fiscal-cliff" are making little to no progress on Capitol Hill, and that has lawmakers on both sides calling for plans.

Both Democrats and Republicans are accusing each other of not offering any real proposals, but neither side has put a detailed plan on the table yet.

Democrats keep talking about adding revenue by ending the Bush tax cuts for Americans making more than $250,000 annually, but Republicans keep focusing on spending cuts.

"I would say there can be no deal without rates on top earners going up," warned White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

At times, the dialogue feels like an elaborate game of chicken, with both sides telling the other to take it or leave it.

Treasure Secretary Tim Geithner met with Republican leaders to outline a plan with $1.6 trillion in tax hikes on the wealthy and $400 billion in savings from Medicare, but no spending cuts or entitlement reform was included.

"Listen, this is not a game," said House Speaker John Boehner. "Jobs are on the line. The American economy is on the line -- and this is a moment for adult leadership. Campaign-style rallies and one-sided leaks in the press are not the way to get things done here in Washington."

Except, that's basically business as usual in Washington, and the financial markets swung like a yo-yo with every dueling press conference and photo op. Risk analyst Jim Nowak explained that's because the markets are afraid federal spending will be cut and the economy will slow.

"Right now, dramatic government cuts are bad news," Nowak told FOX 9. "That's the only game in town -- is the Fed and government spending. The real economy is not that healthy."

Yet, no one's numbers come close to erasing the structural deficit. Ending the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans would only bring in $84 billion annually -- which is enough to run the country for nine days.

Meanwhile, entitlement spending has more than doubled in the past two decades, now accounting for 62 percent of the budget. Most of that goes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which are three programs Democrats don't want to touch.

On Thursday, Republicans threw out their own idea of budget cuts that suggested eliminating the Rural Utilities Service, a legacy of the Roosevelt era's Rural Electrification Administration. Now that rural America is electrified, killing the service could save $44 billion over five years.

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