Now that the November election has returned President Obama to the White House and left Congress more or less divided as it was before the vote-with a slightly reduced Republican majority in the House and a slightly bigger Democratic majority in the Senate-we move to the standoff regarding the "fiscal cliff."

Here's the background of the current situation: In the fall of 2011, a gridlocked Congress established a mandated across-the-board cut of between $300 billion and $600 billion in federal spending to go into effect next year unless a deal is struck by the end of this year to cut the budget and/or raise taxes.

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