The election is over (except in the state of Florida, where counting votes is a contact sport), President Barack Obama is back in the White House for a second term, and Congress is still divided, with a slightly less Republican House and a slightly more Democratic Senate. Now attention turns to the so-called “fiscal cliff,” which, with the help of continued gridlock, could end up sending the U.S. economy into recession next year.

Here’s the situation: In 2011, Congress established a mandated across-the-board cut of between $300 billion and $600 billion in federal spending unless a deal is struck by the end of this year to cut the budget and/or raise taxes to reduce next year’s budget deficit by that amount.

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