One chart; one profound truth

Despite the severity of consequences of the current debt ceiling debate, I was reminded tonight yet again of how ludicrous the debate we’re having is. We’re talking about trillions of dollars in spending cuts, but for the most part those cuts will not do a single thing to contain the long-term debt crisis.

A single chart, courtesy Yuval Levin via Matt Yglesias, makes the problem clear:

For the most part, Republicans and Democrats have been arguing about the blue line. To the extent they’ve been arguing about the far more important red line, Democrats have been resisting Republican plans to deal with the red line by pushing the federal share of rising health care costs onto seniors and poor people.

What all this energy should have been expended on is trying to figure out a way to change the trajectory of that line, and that can only be done – at least responsibly and morally – by slowing health care inflation for the entire nation. The moderate health care reform that Obama barely managed to pass – and that Republicans continue to try to kill – might set up the preconditions necessary to begin that job. But much more needs to be done.

This is the debate America ought to be having. Instead, Democrats are trying to figure out how to keep the Republicans from trashing the global economy intentionally.

Does anyone in Washington wonder why the country hates them?

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