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Let's get real about the deficit

As the Pioneer Journal enters its deadline cycle this week, a deadline of a different sort looms in Washington, D.C., with a government shutdown a possibility. This silliness makes it ever so clear that nothing of substance on balancing the budget can be hoped for.

Let's first put into perspective what's being argued about -- what both sides are willing to shut the government down over. It's $7 billion. The Democrats say let's cut $33 billion. The GOP says it has to be $40 billion. Yes, that's billion with a B, and you're talking real money.

Or are you? To put it into perspective, Rep. Paul Ryan, a rising Republican star from Wisconsin, has proposed once we get over this squabble over $7 billion that we should set out to cut $6 trillion from the budget. Yes, that's trillion with a T, and that's the sort of sacrifice we're going to have to start getting used to.

Ryan's budget is two things that will almost certainly spell doom in a town like Washington: it's bold and it's honest.

I'd argue with Ryan's priorities within the budget -- cutting safety net programs like food stamps and asking the poor to make all of the sacrifices, while giving a monstrous tax break to wealthy individuals is just plain wrong. But other proposals, such as cutting the corporate tax rate to make the U.S. more competitive and reforming entitlement programs, make so much sense they shouldn't even wait until next year -- those should be done now.

And although I don't agree with the way Ryan's budget tackles the problem, I understand fully that in order to really do this -- to really balance the budget, there will be a whole lot of things I hate, but that's too bad. Everyone should have something they hate about a plan that big. If there's not something you hate, we haven't cut enough.

We're at a point where we have to realize the scale of the numbers of this problem. So we're arguing over $7 billion, and we then have to come up with roughly 1,000 times that? We're in trouble.

It's like getting into a bare-knuckle fight over the 50 cents you have in your right pocket, when you have $500 in your left pocket. Silly.

And we need to realize there won't be deep tax cuts. There will be large tax increases. We can't do it on cuts alone. We've been hearing for decades we could, and it hasn't ever happened. We think we're going to find a bunch of $100 left-handed hammers, and then we're going to be all set. Unless there are 70 billion $100 left-handed hammers, or 7 trillion ideas out there each to save $1, it's not going to work.

We're going to have to pay more and do with less. We need to get used to that idea very, very quickly. But if we bite the bullet and do it, it's a path back to prosperity. And the effects of taking our medicine now will start paying off quickly.

But we have Democrats who think spending equals love in the same way a mother thinks food equals love. And we have Republicans who think the more tax cuts they give the wealthiest people, the more money will come rolling into the Treasury. They're both wrong, but they're both convinced their logic is unassailable, and they're unwilling to bend an inch.

Writer Eric Black from's words were so well chosen in a column I read this winter that I want to quote them fully:

"It's easy to say that now is not the time for the sour medicine -- spending cuts and tax increases -- that are necessary to get the U.S. fiscal picture out of the 'unsustainable' category. But a review of recent history suggests that the time for candy is always. The time for the tough medicine is never. Next year, or the year after, or the year after that, please prove me wrong."

Unfortunately for Black -- and the rest of us -- this doesn't look like our year.

This editorial represents the collective voice of the Pioneer Journal's editorial board. Today's editorial was written by Steve Schulz, editor and publisher.