COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

What a shocker: Congress and the Obama administration are taking this "fiscal cliff" right down to the last minute ... and maybe beyond. In what has to be one of the most embarrassing episodes in the history of the U.S. legislative process, politics seem to be overriding the practical. Let's hope the boys and girls who are running this country resolve to do a better job in 2013. I wouldn't bet on it.

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Perhaps most frustrating for the average person watching this fiasco is the impact it is having on their investments and retirement accounts. Going into today's session on Wall Street, the stock market has been down for five sessions in a row, dropping 374 points or 2.8 percent. Despite the decline the major indexes are all going to post solid gains for this year, in most cases well above historical returns. Just think where stocks would be if Congress had acted responsibly in addressing the budget situation.

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By the way, a report on Friday from Standard & Poor's -- which downgraded U.S. government debt from AAA to AA+ in August -- said the "Congressional impasse of the fiscal cliff does not affect the U.S. sovereign rating." However, if we do go off the cliff all bets are off.

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We now know what was under the Christmas tree for a lot of good boys and girls. According to a survey from Flurry, more than 17.4 million tablet devices and smartphones were activated on Dec. 25 alone. And, for the first time, Christmas activations of tablets exceeded smartphones. Flurry also estimates more than 1.5 billion apps will be downloaded between Christmas day and New Year's day. In the early hours of Christmas, as many as 20 million apps per hour were being downloaded. And analysts continue to tell us what a lousy Christmas season this was and how cautious consumers were with their spending.

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As 2012 winds to an end it is of interest to note some of the anniversaries we celebrated this year. For instance, the Census Bureau points out it was 200 years ago that tension between the United States and Britain ignited the War of 1812. It was 100 years ago the National Biscuit Company -- aka Nabisco -- introduced the Oreo. And, 100 years ago the life expectancy of a baby girl was 56 years and for a newborn boy it was 52 years. Today, a baby girl born in 2012 should live to 81 and a boy to 76. It probably has something to do with the healthy benefits of the amazing Oreo.

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Also, 100 years ago the U.S. population was 97 million people. Tonight, more than 315 million people here will greet the New Year.

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My friends who are Raiders fans were quick to point out last night the offensive team of the boys from Oakland actually outscored the Chargers 17-14 in yesterday's mud bowl at the Q. Were it not for the kickoff return at the very start of the game by the Chargers the victory would have gone to the dreaded Raiders. There is always next year.

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Happy New Year to all and please be very, very safe.

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