The fiscal cliff is overrated by some measures. It's just the beginning, by others.
The economy won't cease to exist if the cliff is breached. However, prospects for a long-term recovery - and the political system's ability to institute positive change - are in doubt.
Regardless of whether a last-minute deal is reached to avoid the worst tax hikes and spending cuts, the impact of the fiscal cliff will be felt well into 2013.
Most likely, a compromise will be reached soon, if only to put off the inevitable. But the tone has been set for the new year, and possibly for the next four.