Family: "Fiscal Cliff" Bickering Hurts Real People Outside D.C. "Bubble"

By  | 

(CBS News) WOODBRIDGE, Va. - Negotiations on a budget deal haven't gotten very far in Washington and there are just 27 days before that so-called "fiscal cliff."

That's the package of tax increases for most Americans and budget cuts that will hit automatically unless the White House and Congress find a gentler way to solve the crisis in the federal budget.

One family is staring right over that cliff.

Shawn and Jody Watson have four daughters ages 5 to 14, and know all-too-well the sacrifices and sleepless nights endured by middle class families in a struggling economy.

"We don't go out to eat much, we don't spend, go out to movies much," Shawn said.

"We do a lot of thrift store shopping for my kids for clothes," Jody added.

Shawn was unemployed for a year in Washington state. Then two years ago he got a job as an accountant with the federal government, so the family -- their savings depleted -- moved across the country to Woodbridge, Va. His salary of a little more than $70,000 is less than what he used to make.

"Before we lost our job, the children were in piano," Shawn said. "We haven't been able to do things like that."

Jody said the hardest part of it all is knowing she wants more for her children.

"My oldest, who is the most aware of what we have been going through the last couple of years, she asked me recently, like this summer, 'So Mommy, when are we going to stop feeling like we're poor?' And I was like, 'Well honey, it's not that we are poor , we just can't do a lot of things that other people do,'" Jody said.

Shawn and Jody say it's soon going to become even tougher, because they believe it's unlikely that Congress and the president will reach a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

If they're right, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, families like the Watsons with annual income between $64-108,000 would see a tax increase of about $3,500.

"I think it will just put any future plans that we might have on hold," Shawn said. "Let's say fixing some electrical in our house. That is an immediate need that we have and we can't do it right now."

They blame both the president and Congress.

It is very disappointing to see bipartisanship almost nonexistent," Shawn said.

"I call it the 'Washington bubble.' Where they have no idea how their choices and their fighting and bickering affects the rest of us," Jody added.

There is, they say, a surprising upside to their financial challenges. They can't afford the fees for extracurricular activities, so after school they spend time together.

"We do a lot of things more as a family, we have game nights," Jody said. "We are not as materialistic as we've been in the past, but we are also seeing the blessings from it, to where we are stronger as a family. Our kids are closer to us."

With 27 days before the January 1 "fiscal cliff," they're watching the clock, worried the Christmas holidays might end with their family facing tougher times.

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.