A whole lot, unfortunately, when it comes to the fiscal cliff. It's no longer a far-off worry; it's happening right now, and the actions taken over just the next few days will directly affect you right away, writes MoneyShow personal finance expert Terry Savage.

It’s down to the wire, and they don’t seem to be taking it seriously in Washington. At least not seriously enough to come up with some middle ground that will change the trend of huge deficits and increasing government spending.

Of course we all know the real solution: Economic Growth. A growing economy would reduce the need for government spending on unemployment benefits and to help the needy. And it would automatically increase tax receipts, because more people would be working and paying taxes into the government.

Instead, what they’re debating is a huge philosophical and political difference over the role of government in America.

On the one side, you have those who firmly believe that the economy would grow if only government would get out of the way. And on the other side, you have those who equally firmly believe that the only way the economy can grow is if government intervenes to help.

It’s no wonder that there can be no agreement, no compromise, no solution. So here’s a closer look at what would really happen if, like Thelma and Louise, they lock hands and jump over the edge.

The Debt Ceiling
This is one of the two most critical issues we face immediately. We will bump up against the official $16.394 trillion debt ceiling by the end of this week! If the government can’t borrow, it can’t pay its bills or salaries, or refinance the Treasury bills, notes, and bonds as they come due.

But Treasury Secretary Geithner has announced they can “borrow from other trust funds” to keep government going into mid-February. Of course, if a corporate executive did this kind of financing, he would go to jail!

Unemployment Benefits
The lack of a deal will have a serious and immediate impact on the 2.1 million people currently receiving extended jobless benefits. (States pay the first six months, and the government has continued those benefits for at least 99 weeks of unemployment.)

If no deal is reached, checks will stop on December 29. And an additional 1 million unemployed will lose their benefit checks over the subsequent three months.