There has been much concern lately about the proximity of the fiscal cliff. What is so alarming is the depth of the plunge.
The hole is deep and getting deeper, with or without a deal to reduce spending and/or raise more revenue. The national debt exceeds $16.2 trillion. The federal government is expected to hit its borrowing limit of $16.39 trillion by the end of the year.
The government tallied a budget deficit of $1.1 trillion in the fiscal year that ended in September. Now, the Treasury Department reports the 2013 budget year began on a path toward the fifth consecutive $1 trillion annual deficit.
But that prediction does not take the pending batch of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts into account. The Congressional Budget Office states that could shrink the annual deficit for 2013 to $641 billion.
Keep in mind, though, the lower deficit figure still would be the sixth largest annual imbalance in U.S. history - assuming the economy wouldn't fall into recession after going over the fiscal cliff, as the CBO warns it could.
Thus, the tightrope walk that awaits federal lawmakers as they try to raise revenue - without sending the nation into recession - and reduce spending - without triggering a recession.
Here's some reason for optimism: In October, tax revenue rose 13 percent. Trouble is, spending rose 16.4 percent.
Our only hope appears to be that the same parties that worked together to create this mess can work together to clean it up.
Pray congressional leaders are successful in that mission, because much work needs to be done to eventually balance the budget, then begin paying down the debt.
But right now, the debt clock isn't the only clock that's ticking.