“The slope would likely be relatively modest at first,” Chad Stone, the chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research group based in Washington, wrote in a recent analysis. “A relatively brief implementation of the tax and spending changes required by current law should cause little short-term damage to the economy as a whole.”…

Even if the tax increases hit in January, families might not notice the incremental loss of income in the near term, economists said. Households might temporarily dig into savings to maintain their spending on the gas, food, housing and other consumer goods, mitigating the impact the tax increases might have on the broader economy…

Moreover, while the fiscal cliff would be enormous in annual terms, its effect would be cumulative, not immediate, analysts have noted. Households hit by the tax increases might not notice the $10 or $100 missing from their paychecks, even if it would damp their spending over the course of the year. Agencies hit by the spending cuts might not act immediately.