Here's a curious little fact.
In Obama's 2010 budget, he's showing mandatory expenses at $2.184 trillion. (Mandatory includes things like social security, medicare, and interest on the national debt.) He's projecting revenues of $2.381 trillion. So, $197 billion is left for all discretionary spending. Unless, of course, we want a 1.2 trillion deficit.
Let's say that we balance the budget without adding taxes. We'd have to cut all discretionary spending by more than 85%. This would mean, for instance, that defense spending would drop from $664 billion to $95 billion, a level we haven't been at since before World War 2. The National Science Foundation - the investment our $13 trillion economy makes into basic research - would be a mere $1 billion, or about what Exxon makes in an hour.
People like to talk about the good old days before the time of so many taxes. Of course, they forget that in those good old days life expectancy was about 47 years, income was a fraction of what it is now, and people had yellow teeth. Assuming they had teeth.
George Bush took us to war and gave us a tax cut. We bought it.
Barack Obama got elected by promising universal health care and a tax cut. We bought it.
We're the ones in denial here, not the politicians. They know that they have to give us our programs and tax cuts or we boot them out.
If a politician promised to raise taxes and cut programs by enough to balance the budget he or she would lose the election. (And anyone who thinks you could balance the budget with just raising taxes or cutting programs is obviously a beneficiary of the new medical marijuana laws.) It's that simple.
Obama has appointed a commission tasked with creating recommendations for moving towards a balanced budget. Elected officials can't talk honestly about what needs to be done, so the bitter truth is left for appointed officials to say. Because you can't stay in office and talk honestly about the deficit. Not if you want to be elected by a polity in denial.