Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Jan. 2. Financial market participants will be keeping a close eye on upcoming deadlines affecting the U.S. debt ceiling, scheduled automatic budget cuts and federal funding. AFP/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The alternative minimum tax created a "useful fiction," as one analyst says, by appearing to shrink budget deficits. Tim Boyle/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Farmer Randy Dreher unloads corn from his combine during harvest north of Audubon, Iowa. Farm exports are booming and high global prices are helping growers despite the U.S. drought. Gary Fandel/Iowa Farm Bureau/AP hide caption

toggle caption Gary Fandel/Iowa Farm Bureau/AP

Construction workers build a home in Palo Alto, Calif. A real turnaround seemed to take hold in the housing sector in 2012 after years of fits and starts. Paul Sakuma/AP hide caption

toggle caption Paul Sakuma/AP

Judy Smith, of Dalton, Ga., looks over paperwork as she files for unemployment benefits in August after being laid off from a catering job. More than 2 million people who get extended benefits may lose them if Congress doesn't act soon. David Goldman/AP hide caption

toggle caption David Goldman/AP

Shoppers line up in a Best Buy store in Rockville, Md., during a Black Friday sale. Thanksgiving weekend sales jumped nearly 13 percent from last year, the National Retail Federation says. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Customers line up at an H&R Block office in Nashville, Tenn., on April 17, the deadline for filing 2011 federal income taxes. Mark Humphrey/AP hide caption

toggle caption Mark Humphrey/AP

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner at the White House in July 2011. They are scheduled to meet at the White House again next week to discuss the looming fiscal cliff. Carolyn Kaster/AP hide caption

toggle caption Carolyn Kaster/AP

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (left) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada during their recent interview with CBS News' 60 Minutes. hide caption

toggle caption

If Congress fails to address the alternative minimum tax, millions of households could see their federal 2012 tax bills jump. hide caption

toggle caption

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor