And yeah, there are some extremists who believe that we should blame the ratings agencies for the faltering credit ratings of the US.

After failing to reach a deal to reduce the deficit, the Senate will move next month to take up legislation that could add more than $400 billion to the deficit.

All of the proposals, such as the extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance, are popular but there’s no agreement on how to pay for them.

Senate Democrats will go on offense next week by forcing Republicans to vote on extending and expanding the payroll tax cut, which accounts for $240 billion of the tab, according to Democratic and Republican aides. Lawmakers will take up the legislation after completing work on the Defense authorization bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has yet to announce an offset for the measure but he has discussed matching it with a tax increase for millionaires. Such a vote would be intended to hammer home the message that Republicans are out to protect the rich, though it leaves Democrats vulnerable to arguments about class warfare.

It is the opening maneuver in what will be a busy month that will likely keep lawmakers in Washington up until Christmas.

Democrats are contemplating a separate vote on extending unemployment benefits, which they do not plan to offset. This would put Republicans in the tough position of blocking popular benefits at a time when the unemployment rate is 9 percent.

Unlike with the deficit-reduction supercommittee, failing to complete the December agenda will have immediate consequences. Families would see their tax bill increase by an average of $1,000; laid-off workers would lose unemployment benefits; doctors would see steep cuts in Medicare payments and corporations would see billions of dollars in tax breaks vanish.