It's crunch time in Washington. One week from today, the federal fiscal year begins, again without a budget. At the same time, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would begin in earnest for millions of Americans.
Wave of a legislative wand, Congress could keep the national government operating under a previous budget. Some members see an opportunity to delay implementation of the health care act known as Obamacare - perhaps halt it altogether.
Again, these issues are to be ironed out by this time next week. Complicating matters, within the next month or so, the federal government is to hit its limit on debt: $16.7 trillion.
Thus, this week should be a hectic, difficult period on Capitol Hill. But, compared to what the next president and the 114th Congress could face, it's a walk in a (still open) national park.
Sure, the fight over funding Obamacare could be fractious, and that's just within the Republican Party. But Americans will either have to start shopping for health insurance beginning next month ... or not.
But the current Congress could raise the debt ceiling another seemingly abstract trillion dollars and be done with the issue for the next two years. That's because the federal deficit is projected to drop to $642 billion this year and bottom out at $378 billion in fiscal 2015.
Then, as things stand now, deficits would increase again. The cause of the increase in red ink? The graying of America.
For the following 17 years, 30 million baby boomers will become senior citizen boomers. That's an average of 10,000 people a day turning 65. These folks will put an increasing demand on Social Security and Medicare.
But there could be a hazard to continually raising the debt ceiling to cover booming costs: interest payments on the accumulated debt.
Don't expect interest rates to stay near zero forever. As the economy strengthens, inflation looms and interest rates rise, interest payments on the nation's debt could rise from $223 billion this year to $823 billion by 2024. That's when the Congressional Budget Office figures 10-year Treasury notes will have a 5.2 percent rate.
Yes, the next seven days may be hectic ones in Washington, but they are liable to provide quick fixes when what we really need are long-term solutions to the problems looming over the next 10 years.