“Don’t bite off more than you can chew” is an appropriate admonition to President Barack Obama as he addresses the difficult challenge of deficit reduction in the State of the Union and the coming years. Raising taxes and reducing spending are the two politically most difficult things for our democracy to do. Tax hikes are rarely at the top of anyone’s Christmas list, and every spending program and its level of funding was put in place for a reason. Divided government makes it doubly hard. Progress is possible but a winning proposal will have to be crafted with respect for the tremendous political challenge that deficit reduction is.
The president will be under a lot of pressure by the Washington policy purists to offer comprehensive solutions to the nation’s long-term problems. But trying immediately to completely solve our substantial long-term budget challenges would both make success unlikely and be largely pointless because other presidents and Congresses will have much to say about the budgets of the future.
The president is right to begin taking concrete actions that will lead to deficit reduction. While reducing the deficit too fast would choke our nascent economic recovery and undermine the president’s top priority of job creation, the country does need to show the world how we are going to get our fiscal house in order.
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