Long-term debt reduction critical to nation's future

A pending crisis has forced Congress to address the issue. Leaders must raise the debt ceiling and hammer out a plan to reduce the debt.

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The out-of-control national debt -- now at $14.4 trillion -- is a very serious problem fueled by decades of the federal government spending much more than it takes in.

It's imperative Congress put in place a long-term, sustainable plan to reduce the debt and put an end to deficit spending. The plan must be realistic and built on thoughtful, prudent debate that considers the short-term health of the nation's economy and the long-term needs of the country. It took years for this country to get into this mess and it will take years to get out of it.

Yet, folks wouldn't get that impression from the political posturing going on in the nation's capital.

The members of Congress -- Republicans and Democrats -- are acting like the debt problem can be solved in the next few weeks. It's all a political game aimed at swaying public opinion to win the 2012 congressional and presidential elections.

Unfortunately, all this posturing could result in an economic disaster for the nation.

The clock is ticking toward an Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling so the country can pay its bills, staving off default on its loans.

If the nation were to default it would put holes in the country's credit rating, cause investors to lose confidence and knock the economic recovery off the rails. The end result would be a crushing blow for most Americans.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress clearly understand the stakes are high, which is why they want to use this political leverage over each other.

Republicans want Democrats to accept trillions in spending cuts while Democrats are pushing for trillions in tax increases.

To this point, these proposals haven't garnered much attention. Neither side has seen a reason to negotiate.

That's certainly not the case now. Congressional leaders returned to the White House today for another round of budget bargaining with President Obama. The president said he will hold daily meetings until they break their partisan stalemate.

Unfortunately, the two sides appear to be no closer to a deal to stop a disastrous -- and first -- default on U.S. obligations.

Congress needs to come to an agreement sooner rather than later. Playing a game of chicken with the U.S. economy is not politically wise for Democrats or Republicans.

In the end, the debt solution must include deep spending cuts over time and tax increases put in place over time. All 535 members of Congress understand that even if they don't like it.

The threat of default must be vanquished so the economy can recover from the Great Recession.

But the president and congressional leaders must stay focused on debt reduction with the same sense of urgency now being shown.

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