William Dudley, President of the New York Fed, puts the fiscal cliff in context:
When I meet with economic leaders across the globe they do not doubt the underlying strength and dynamism of the U.S. economy, or the entrepreneurialism and inventiveness of our people. Nor do they doubt that we have the resources and capability to overcome the challenges we face. But they do wonder whether our political system is capable of putting the national interest above partisan interests and making the tough choices needed to address these challenges.
If a credible bipartisan agreement is reached, it will strengthen global confidence in the U.S. and underscore to the world that our country remains a great place to do business and invest in. Failure would suggest a degree of political dysfunction that could undermine U.S. economic leadership and could encourage global corporations and investors to invest elsewhere.
Along the same lines, Neil Irwin compares the fiscal cliff to the Eurozone crisis:
The Europeans were trying to create new institutions on the fly in the face of a crisis. The United States is testing whether our centuries-old institutions are up to modern challenges. Europe bungled the process enough so that its standing as a credible, global leader is in doubt. The goal for the United States is to achieve a better result.