With a federal budget deficit that exceeded $1.3 trillion in FY 2010 and a rapidly mounting national debt, the findings of the Fiscal Commission established to identify ways to balance the budget have been much anticipated. Tackling the deficit is important to restoring the government’s fiscal health and the nation’s economic prosperity. It is also important to national security. History has demonstrated that in times of major conflict, the fiscal might of the United States and the ability to mobilize resources on a massive level have been a source of enduring strategic advantage. But with the deficit near record levels, the debt load rising, and interest payments on the debt consuming a greater share of the budget each year, this advantage is rapidly eroding. Unlike like many national security challenges, which can be ill-defined and intractable, the fiscal challenge the nation faces is relatively straightforward to solve in a technical sense. Indeed, a virtually infinite array of solutions is possible to achieve the goal of a balanced budget, including changes both to revenues and spending. And the metrics to measure success—future deficit and debt levels—are relatively straightforward to compute. The difficulty is finding the right balance between spending cuts and revenue increases an
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