President Obama has summoned congressional leaders to a Friday summit at the White House to talk about a deal that would avert some of the “fiscal cliff” measures that are scheduled to kick in on January 1. Everyone seems to agree that there isn’t enough time to avert all of these measures.

Nor are all of them necessarily to be despised. Democrats believe that cliff-imposed tax increases for high earners are a good thing, and are determined to make Republicans eat them. Many Republicans believe, or should, that most cliff-imposed spending cuts would, on balance, be a good thing. Avoidng these cuts is hardly an imperative for conservatives.

In any event, January 1 is overrated as a “deadline.” For example, whatever deal on taxes — including estate taxes and the alternative minimum tax — can be reached before that date can be reached thereafter and made retroactive. Whatever joy, or relief, the financial markets may experience as the result of a deal reached this year can be enjoyed with equal vigor early next year.

So unless Obama has something significantly new to offer on Friday, summoned Republicans should treat the day as just one of many in a long struggle.


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