2. U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Obama vaulted to a re-election victory over Mitt Romney, who had staked his bid on the weakest U.S. economic rebound since the Great Depression and had pledged to slash taxes. Unemployment under Obama topped 8 percent for 43 straight months.
Yet he won despite the highest unemployment rate of any president seeking re-election since World War II. Voters assigned him higher marks on the economy as the year progressed, perhaps encouraged by job gains. As the fiscal cliff neared, Obama fought to raise taxes on the highest-earning Americans. He also demanded aid for the long-term unemployed and money for roads, bridges and other infrastructure. Economists raised hopes that if the fiscal cliff was averted, the gloom would lift in Obama’s second term.
3. OBAMA HEALTH CARE PLAN UPHELD
The Supreme Court caught many by surprise when it backed Obama administration’s health care reform in a 5-4 vote. The law requires Americans to buy insurance or pay a tax, while subsidizing the needy. Hospitals and health insurers will likely benefit from 30 million new customers. Medical device makers, though, will face a new sales tax. And some small businesses say the law will discourage hiring because it requires companies to provide health care once they employ more than 50.
4. THE FISCAL CLIFF
A dreaded package of tax increases and deep spending cuts to domestic and defense programs loomed over the economy in the year’s final months. Negotiators struggled to forge a budget deal to avert those measures. If they failed, the tax increases and spending cuts would kick in Jan. 1. That threat was intended to be so chilling that it would force Congress and the White House to take the painful budgetary steps needed to avoid it. Economists warned that if the fiscal cliff measures remained in place for much of 2013, they would cause a recession.