It was early on Friday Australian time that things really started looking grim.
Republican and Democratic congressional leaders threw their hands in the air, and then they pointed fingers.
They had come to the conclusion that the nation was probably going over the fiscal cliff.
The President, Barack Obama, was aboard Air Force One nearing Washington DC – he had cut short his Christmas break in Hawaii – when the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, rose to address the chamber.
“Come the first of this year, Americans will have less income than they have today.” he warned. “If we go over the cliff, and it looks like that’s where we’re headed, the House of Representatives … aren’t here. I can’t imagine their consciences.”
A spokesman for John Boehner, who as the Speaker of the House of Representatives effectively leads the Republican Party, fired back a terse denial of responsibility.
“Senator Reid should talk less and legislate more,” he said. “The house has already passed legislation to avoid the entire fiscal cliff. Senate Democrats have not.”
That was not quite true, although Reid should take no comfort in that.
There is more than enough blame to go around in the mess over the fiscal cliff – enough for Reid and Boehner and for their troops in Congress. Enough too for the President.
Because of their failure, it is likely that some, if not all, of the measures collectively known as the fiscal cliff will kick in on January 1.
These include ending federal unemployment benefits to 2 million people, slashing defence and health spending, and increasing income taxes across the board.
Should the whole suite of measures kick in and remain in place, they would collectively gouge about $US600 billion ($578 billion) from this fragile economy, forcing it back into recession and costing millions of jobs.
So how did it come to this?
The fiscal cliff is not an economic crisis but a political one – a trip wire set in place by the very politicians now entangled in it.