Success is critical.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has concluded that the drastic cuts and tax increases that Congress and Obama agreed to confront at year's end in order to force action on a more temperate debt-control package would lead to a recession in 2013 and drive up unemployment to 9 percent or more.
If the "cliff" is avoided with a more modest package that doesn't strike so fast, economists see a much rosier scenario. Moody's Analytics projects gross domestic product, the main measure of the economy, to grow at a 4 percent clip or more in 2014, compared to less than 2 percent so far this year, and unemployment to fall to 5.6 percent in 2016.
___Associated Press Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber contributed to this article.