In their view ...

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When President Barack Obama told the joint session of Congress that substantial work had been completed on the task of getting the nation's fiscal house in order, it might not have come as a surprise if the lighting in the hall had taken on a pink hue.

After all, it takes the rosiest of rose-colored glasses to make such a statement.

Obama said that over the past few years, the deficit has been reduced by more than $2.5 trillion through spending cuts and tax hikes on the richest 1 percent of Americans. "As a result," Obama said, "we are more than halfway toward the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances."

What is most troublesome about this argument is that it concedes the point of whether the federal budget will be in balance at any point in the next two decades. However, as the baby boomers surge toward retirement and their Social Security and Medicare benefits, the scope of federal spending will not have decreased at all in the long run. ...

By now, it should be obvious what needs to be on the table for the "grand bargain" to occur: Substantive cuts to the federal budget, modifications to Medicare and Social Security to ensure their solvency through the next decades and the elimination of tax loopholes that, while popular, have outlived their usefulness as policy goals. Such loophole closures should allow the overall federal tax rates to be decreased.

The federal debt and ongoing budget deficits matter -- but by trying to advance the argument that a bulk of the work on them has been accomplished, President Obama has not shown a seriousness of purpose to get the true cost of government into balance.

Longmont (Colo.) Times-Call

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