Terry Savage

Have you been rushing to get everything done this holiday season? Perhaps you're headed off to a vacation in warmer climes -- or maybe it's just getting prepared for a few days at home with your family. In either case, you know the feeling of trying to get everything done in the last few days.

But while you'll get all the important stuff at work finished because your boss is watching, Congress seems to have no such incentive. We, the people, are their boss -- and Congress couldn't seem to care less.

You won't be able to hide the year-end project under a stack of other stuff and leave work with a clean conscience. But members of Congress seem completely capable of postponing their real work for a couple of months while they go on vacation. Do they think we won't notice?

It took until Saturday to pass a year-end $1 trillion spending bill to keep the government operating. Perhaps the ultimate pressure of returning home to face the electorate finally got to them.

But they can't agree on extending the payroll tax cut.

And still up in the air is an extension of unemployment benefits and reimbursement rates for physicians who see Medicare patients -- two issues that have a real impact if they are not dealt with immediately.

Of course, part of this is the process of jockeying for political and public relations supremacy in an election year. Even projects that both sides agree would be good for the economy are held hostage to the process.

A pipeline that would create energy independence and thousands of jobs had been postponed until after the 2012 elections -- despite the fact that both laboring Americans and big business have reason to agree to its construction. Why this one pipeline -- when we have many thousands of miles of pipelines criss-crossing America?

This pipeline, which is a real economic issue, has been turned into purely a political football -- despite the fact that it benefits both sides of the aisle -- big business and blue-collar workers. That's because "green" organizations are big political contributors.

We've all felt the desire to procrastinate, despite the nagging feeling that accompanies that option. You know you should make smart financial decisions, but the overwhelming consequences of facing reality encourage you to delay.

For example, you know you should be making a list of your current outstanding credit card balances before you go shopping. But in the "holiday spirit," you go shopping first, and figure you'll tally up the consequences later when the bills come due.

Terry Savage

Terry Savage is a nationally known expert on personal finance and a regular television commentator on CNN, CNBC, PBS, and NBC on issues related to investing and financial markets.

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