Lines of communication remain open in an effort to avert the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff," according to the White House and House Speaker John Boehner.
If no deal is reached between now and the end of the year, would the consequences be that drastic?
To answer that question, let's imagine it's January and the nation has gone off the "fiscal cliff." You don't really feel any different and things don't look different, either. That's because, according to former congressional budget staffer Stan Collender, the cliff isn't really a cliff.
"It was a great communications tool, but it was a misnomer from the beginning," says Collender, who now works at Qorvis Communications. "The idea of jumping off the cliff and just having the economy go into the tanks immediately is just absolutely, positively, incontrovertibly incorrect."
"Yes, taxes technically will go up on Jan. 1. And yes, federal spending will be cut on Jan. 2, but you really won't start to see any real effects of that for a couple of weeks at the minimum and maybe not even until the end of the month," he adds.
He says the Obama administration would most likely instruct departments to delay the cuts for a little while to see if something can be worked out with Congress.
But Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago, isn't so sure that will happen.
"There's a changing perception that this is no longer a time bomb that will detonate," Ablin says.
He thinks that perception is already baked into stock prices. The imagery Ablin prefers to a cliff or a bomb is a pot of water. On Jan. 1, the burner is turned on, but the water won't start boiling for a while.
"Put it this way: I lose sleep at night so my clients don't have to," Ablin says. "I'm not losing a ton of sleep over this one — at least not yet. I start losing sleep if we are making no progress by, let's say, the end of January."