These experts helpfully synthesized a bunch of intricate numbers and created PowerPoint presentations sprinkled with graphs that illustrated a pending stratospheric explosion of debt and spending -- for which the technical term, I believe, was "we're screwed."
Americans might have a similar reaction to the much-heralded suggestions of the co-chairmen of the deficit commission convened by President Barack Obama. Reality is that even this modest hodgepodge of tax hikes and spending cuts pasted together by the co-chairmen is unlikely to pass the entire committee, much less Congress.
But it may be good news in the end.
To begin with, the $200 billion in spending cuts we're talking about are reductions in planned spending. That's like promising to lose 10 pounds in two years -- after first gaining 20. And if politicians remain true to their calling, we know that discretionary budgets cuts will last until the first "emergency" emerges. New taxes and spending programs, on the other hand, typically sunset when the sun actually runs out of hydrogen.
As it stands, the plan is nearly devoid of any fundamental reforms transforming the way government operates, save two areas -- neither of which has a chance with Democrats in control.
For kicks, let's engage in a thought experiment to highlight the hurdles. Suspend your disbelief momentarily and allow that Republicans are serious this time around about cutting government's size and spending. Also allow that the GOP would be agreeable -- as some have intimated -- to cutting military spending, raising some taxes, removing exemptions, cutting agricultural subsidies, etc., in a larger compromise.
Would it matter?
Democrats believe we have a taxing problem -- more specifically, a not-taxing-the-rich-enough problem -- rather than a spending problem. How many times have we heard the silly platitude about having to "pay" for tax cuts? We pay for spending, not tax cuts.
But that particular impenetrable philosophical divide is just the beginning. Outside of military spending, the co-chairmen found that one of the most effective ways to save money -- about $30 billion yearly -- is to shave 10 percent of the federal work force and freeze all salaries.
Not a big deal, considering USA Today recently reported that the number of people in the massive federal work force earning more than $150,000 had doubled since January 2009 -- long after Washington supposedly understood the magnitude of the problem.