Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has talked lately about a couple of size-14 shoes waiting to drop at the end of this year. He sounded the theme again last week in a speech at the Portland City Club in Portland, OR. “At the end of the year, we face a so-called fiscal ‘cliff’—the simultaneous expiration of tax cuts and large across-the-board cuts in spending,” Geithner said in prepared remarks. “That cliff presents a risk, but it also provides an opportunity for bipartisan agreement on reforms to restore fiscal sustainability.”

Now, whether the fractious boys and girls of Congress can bring themselves to meet this opportunity is another matter entirely. Given the combination of brinkmanship and paralysis that led to the downgrade of the country’s credit rating last summer, and the hamster-in-a-treadmill stance that Congressional lawmakers have taken since then—lots of running in place, but no forward motion—I’m not optimistic.

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