Continued from page 1

“The problems confronting U.S. lawmakers seem like child’s play compared to the challenges facing their European counterparts,” he said.

“To let both programs expire would risk hitting the economy with too much fiscal drag,” he said. Moreover, if the impasse continues, that could drive down consumer confidence again just when consumers were getting back into their groove after reacting badly to an intense congressional standoff over the debt this summer.

Without an agreement on taxes, “the public will have to digest their holiday dinners to the distinctly unappetizing din of both sides continuing to play games with their paychecks while trying to seek out some political advantage,” Mr. Kelly said.

But he added that it’s more likely Washington will come to a compromise on the issue before the end of the year, enabling the stock market and consumers to keep marching onward and upward into next year.