COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

A lump of coal. Yes, the boys and girls in the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration deserve nothing better for Christmas as they failed to address the budget dilemma last night and simply packed up to head home for Christmas. It is incredibly sad that politics override any effort to cope with the mess that threatens the simple economics of the country -- not to mention our status in the world. Quite simply, we look this morning like the Greece of North America.

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Wall Street is not happy about the inability of leaders to act. The markets have opened sharply lower despite some very good economic news. The Commerce Department reported personal income rose 0.06 percent in November, a very sizeable increase. And, spending rose by 0.04 percent, well above expectations as most analysts and economists had been talking about a slowdown in holiday shopping. That, of course, takes me back to by standing belief that none of the "experts" who are worried about consumer spending have even walked into a mall or shopping center. I drove by North County Fair in Escondido yesterday afternoon and the parking lot was completely full. It looked like a Costco. Anyone who thinks consumers are spent out hasn't gone shopping, simple as that.

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Wall Street’s reaction to the failure of Congress to vote on a budget package last night is modest compared to what will happen if the major rating services decide to drop the AAA credit rating on U.S. government securities. The prospect of such a move was offered yesterday by Fitch, one of the closely watched rating agencies. "Failure to avoid the fiscal cliff would exacerbate rather than diminish the uncertainty over fiscal policy and tip the U.S. into an avoidable and unnecessary recession. That could erode medium-term growth potential and financial stability. In such a scenario, there would be an increased likelihood that the U.S. would lose its AAA status," reads a report from Fitch.

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Your tax dollars at work: The U.S. Census Bureau has just released a report on wildlife recreation in 2011. The report says "anglers, hunters and wildlife watchers" spent $144.7 billion in 2011 on their activities. FYI, that is about a quarter of what Americans will spend this year during the holiday shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I bet you were anxious to know the most popular fish sought by freshwater anglers are the black bass and panfish. Great Lakes fishers go for the walleye and sauger.

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Another Madoff is headed to jail. This time it is Peter Madoff, brother of legendary scammer Bernard Madoff, who ran the biggest investment fraud in history, bilking people and organizations out of as much as $50 billion. Peter was the controller of the company and said he was completely unaware of the scheme his brother was running. The judge, however, disagreed, saying it was "not believable." Peter Madoff avoided the maximum sentence for his role in the fraud by entering a guilty plea and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He is 67.

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It was a rather disappointing end to the season for the San Diego Aztecs last night. A lack of offense led to a 23-6 loss to BYU in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. The game looked beautiful, especially the opening scenes of the skyline as the sun was setting. But the rest of the game was less than spectacular. Here's hoping the Holiday Bowl is better.

I'm off for a few days to spend Christmas with family and friends. I hope you have the same opportunity.

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