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Defense contractors have slowed hiring. Tax advisers are warning firms not to count on favorite breaks. And hospitals are scouring their books for ways to cut costs.

Across the U.S. economy, anxiety is rising about the potential for widespread disruptions after the November election, when a lame-duck Congress will have barely two months to resolve a grinding standoff over taxes and spending.

The halls of the U.S. Capitol are already teeming with people warning of disaster if lawmakers fail to defuse a New Year’s budget bomb scheduled to raise taxes for every American taxpayer and slash spending at the Pentagon and most other federal agencies.

Last week, hospital executives came to complain about big scheduled cuts in Medicare payments. Next month, university presidents plan to raise the alarm about big scheduled cuts in federal research grants. And the chief executives of Lockheed Martin and other aerospace giants last Wednesday passed out digital countdown clocks ticking off the seconds until “over 1 million American jobs” will be lost to big scheduled cuts in defense.

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