Over the last several weeks of fiscal-cliff frenzy, we've heard a lot about taxes, taxes, taxes. It's apocalypse now-ish! With only 10 days left before we go careening off that cliff, President Obama and congressional leaders are trying (so they say!) to stop the crazy train that they set rolling in the first place.
Atlantic Cities warns of the horrors awaiting us in the ravine below: big cuts for transportation and urban infrastructure, from housing to roads. The Section 8 low-income housing program and Community Services Block Grants could be slashed, as well as assistance for the homeless, which would mean hard times for the poor plus local layoffs.
The thing that makes all of this so troubling is that direct federal funds make up only a fraction of a city's budget. Much more money comes from state governments. Maryland, for example, stands to lose $100 million if the government goes over the fiscal cliff.
And without clarity on just how the federal government will try to plug up its debt, states are struggling to create a road map for their own infrastructure efforts.
Even if the fiscal cliff doesn't come to pass, all this uncertainty will likely have a long-term impact. "Cities and metros are getting the picture that the federal government is not a reliable partner," says Bruce Katz, vice president at the Brookings Institution and founding Director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.
Today the National League of Cities released a statement saying, "Local elected officials have been at turns appalled, stunned, and dismayed, at what is passing for 'serious debate and negotiation'" around the fiscal cliff.
Meanwhile, leaders from states that stand to benefit from a new Farm Bill are urging Congress to summarily lump it into the last-minute budget agreement. That would affect food stamps, big ag subsidies, and a lot more. The Atlantic details some of the less-discussed risks of a last-minute Farm Bill: