For the leaders of a country confronting a mounting national debt that causes creditors to worry about the ability to pay it off, the solution is obvious: Stop borrowing money.
But what's the best way to balance the budget? Reduce spending? Increase taxes? Try both?
Fiscal conservatives favor cutting back on government spending. Reducing some or all government programs, and perhaps eliminating others, is the way to make ends meet.
Sure, it may cause hardship for citizens, some more than others. But some of that pain would be temporary; eventually, debt payments would be eliminated, freeing more revenue for state-run programs.
Progressives point out that until then, reduced government spending would cause the national economy to shrink; funds the government had been borrowing would not enter the economy. Thus, even more people would be out of work. That would be tough in a country that already has high unemployment.
Trouble is, balancing a budget by raising taxes would have the same effect. Government spending on programs would remain steady, but use money that taxpayers would not be able to spend themselves.
Viewed this way, two things become apparent. One, the borrowing must stop sometime, and the sooner the better. Two, balancing the budget and paying down the deficit will not be painless, no matter how it is done.
The only thing left to debate is how to inflict the least amount of pain. But individual politicians are more concerned about who will feel the pain - preferably, not the ones who vote for a particular politician.
This explains much about the level of partisanship in Washington and elsewhere, and the "warfare" between voting blocs. It does not instill confidence that the debt problem will be dealt with in an effective manner.