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No progress in US talks on ‘fiscal cliff’

WASHINGTON: Just 18 days remain, but President Barack Obama and the top Republican in Congress appear no closer to giving ground in negotiations aimed at avoiding the Dec. 31 austerity measures of big tax increases for all Americans and deep spending cuts that threaten to push the nation into a new recession.

Obama s schedule for Thursday showed no meetings on the so-called “fiscal cliff,  and a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said the two men did not have any follow-up talks Wednesday after talking twice by phone Tuesday.

“The president and I had a pretty frank conversation about just how far apart we are,” Boehner said Wednesday.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has said the central bank s actions would not solve the fiscal crisis, and on Wednesday he warned, “Clearly, the fiscal cliff is having effects on the economy.” The uncertainty is affecting consumer and business confidence and leading businesses to cut back on investment.

The talks are weighed down heavily by conservatives  objections to raising tax rates and Obama s determination to carry out his campaign promise to start solving the U.S. budget crisis by raising taxes on wealthy Americans.

Beyond that is a deep philosophical disagreement on government spending, especially so-called entitlement programs like the Medicare health insurance program for older Americans and the Social Security pension program. Republicans want big cuts, and Democrats don t.

Neither side has given much ground, and Boehner s exchange of proposals with Obama seemed to generate more hard feelings than progress. The White House has slightly reduced its demands on taxes from $1.6 trillion over a decade to $1.4 trillion
but isn t yielding on demands that rates rise for wealthier earners.

Boehner responded with an offer very much like one he gave the White House more than a week ago that proposed $800 billion in new revenue, half of Obama s original demand. Boehner is also pressing for an increase in the Medicare eligibility age.

The Dec. 31 deadline to stop the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and the start of across-the-board spending cuts is the result of Washington s failure to complete a deficit-reduction deal last year. casino en ligne francais

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