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EDITORIAL: Get serious about federal deficit

The growing debt - and our failure to make hard choices to reduce it - is undermining confidence in America abroad, eroding our economic might, and could lead to a historic slide from prominence. Jobs and economic growth must be our top priorities. But then we have to get serious about things people don't want to hear: raising taxes and restraining spending on entitlements - Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The nation owes $12.3 trillion. President Barack Obama's budget includes $1.3 trillion in deficit spending, and he projects the federal government will borrow $8.5 trillion over the next decade.

Meanwhile, Washington will collect $2.5 trillion in taxes next year but spend $3.8 trillion; $1.7 trillion of it on entitlements and debt service. Another $846 billion will go to the military and homeland security, both hard to cut while at war. But if entitlements, taxes and defense are untouched and the budget is balanced, there wouldn't be a dime left for environmental protection, medical research, schools, roads - everything else.

Obama has proposed capping discretionary spending. But that's a minuscule down payment on deficit reduction. Congressional Democrats won't reduce entitlement spending. Republicans won't raise taxes. Senate Republicans wouldn't even agree to a deficit reduction commission, for fear it would recommend tax hikes. We need to get real about solving the nation's fiscal problems. hN