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Debt ceiling crisis breaks down into simple problem
Despite all the drama and analysis, the national budget problem isn't that hard to understand.
The government will bring in about $178 billion in revenue in August, but needs to pay about $308 billion in bills.
We've all faced similar "crises" with our personal budgets, and most of us deal with them in the same way: paying off the bills as soon as possible and, if we're wise, making changes that may involve doing without some things that add to our debt.
If we have a real crisis -- medical emergency, unexpected major bill, divorce or death in the family -- we may go into debt, or even declare bankruptcy.
Rather than paying down the debt, or even bringing the budget into balance, the federal government has routinely charged the extra bills to the national credit card by raising the debt limit.
Today, congressional leaders who might have otherwise compromised have found a themselves forced to cater to a group of new delegates who were elected on pledges to stop the spending.
The problem is, attempting to fix a problem in one budget year that took decades to develop will be a disaster.
Democrats like to point out that President Clinton submitted a balanced budget in his last year in office, and that President George W. Bush's policies -- cutting taxes, entering wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the new Medicare drug benefit, 2008 stimulus and other changes, added more than $5 trillion to the national debt.
President Obama's stimulus package and tax cuts, health reform and other spending, have added more than $1.4 trillion to the problem, however.
That works out to $633 billion in deficits for each year Bush was in office, $720 billion for Obama, including projections out to 2017. Neither fiscal performance is anything to brag about.
At worst, congressional inaction will result in a default and, who knows, a worsening recession and even depression.
At best, the current crisis will shock Washington into making real, long-term change.