The White House Office of Management and Budget projects that this year, mandatory spending will exceed federal revenue. Congress could cut every dime of discretionary spending and Washington would still run a deficit. Years ahead of forecasts, Social Security paid out more money than it took in last year. So who in Washington is serious about tackling the deficit and looming tidal wave of debt?
Not President Obama. Not anti-tax hardliners who are going after Republicans who negotiate with Democrats. And not D.C. Democrats who oppose needed entitlement reform.
There aren't many people on the right side of this issue because there is a schism in Washington between adults who understand Washington has to cut spending and children who don't want to eat their spinach.
On the side of the angels, I'd start with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. He has looked at the budget charts and the scary trajectories. And he fears, as he wrote in The Washington Post, "a forcing event," if the government effectively runs out of credit.
This is a moral issue to Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who told Politico's Mike Allen last week, when the credit runs out, there's no safety net.
And: "We can't be good at our jobs if all we're worried about is keeping our jobs."
In Coburn and Ryan, America can find the leadership that is lacking on Pennsylvania Avenue. Obama stood at an arm's length from recommendations made by the bipartisan fiscal commission he created. He won't stick out his neck. He wants Republicans to go first.
Now, Coburn and Ryan don't agree on everything. Coburn voted to back recommendations made by the bipartisan fiscal commission. Ryan voted against them. But they're not just telling their political base what it wants to hear.
Ditto Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, who have been meeting with Coburn and other Repubs to form a bipartisan Senate group to tackle thorny entitlement issues.
It tells you something about today's political climate that Republicans have been scolded just for talking with Democrats. After The Wall Street Journal reported that the negotiators were considering a tax overhaul that would eliminate loopholes and net an extra $180 billion over 10 years, Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist wrote to Coburn and company to remind them that a tax code overhaul "would most likely be a violation" of his group's Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
Norquist explained to The Washington Post, "I think golf and cocaine would (be) more constructive ways to spend one's free time than negotiating with Democrats on spending restraint."
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