So here, in a syllogism, is the Republican House leadership's position on the deficit: 1) "You cannot balance this budget in 10 years without severely impacting the benefits current seniors and retirees are getting now," and 2) "We have said that those 55 and older will not see any change in their benefits." Therefore, we will not balance the budget until that time in the future -- beyond 10 years from today -- when doing so will not change the federal entitlement benefits of any American who is 55 or older.
But America cannot afford another decade of escalating debt.
In cold cash terms, running annual deficits and maintaining a debt that is already $14 trillion requires the U.S. Treasury to find the cash each month to pay not only for ongoing government operations that exceed ongoing tax revenues, but also for ever-growing sums of old debts that have come due.
A quick look at the federal government's accounting for just the month of February over the past decade shows how this works. In February 2001, the Treasury needed to pay $201.2 billion to redeem old bonds. To cover that obligation and also that month's operating deficit, it was forced to turn around and sell $211.7 billion in new bonds, increasing the net debt of the country.
By February 2005, the Treasury needed to pay $312.8 billion to redeem old bonds, and was forced to turn around and sell $392.2 in new bonds, again increasing the nation's net debt.
In February 2011, the Treasury needed to pay $585 billion to redeem old bonds, and was forced to turn around and sell $660.8 billion in new bonds, again increasing the nation's net debt.
The Treasury repeats this pattern every month of the year.
Hoyer and Cantor are telling the nation that both Democrats and Republicans will permit this to go on for at least another 120 months.
In one way they are hopelessly optimistic: They assume American taxpayers will still be able to finance the monthly churning of the debt that will have accumulated by then, and that creditors will still be willing to lend it.