House Republicans have really rolled up their sleeves and gotten to work and delivered a budget plan that would balance the federal government’s books in a decade. That’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, … what were we talking about back in 2015? In other words, they passed the buck and kicked the can way down the road in what is a modest proposal by any rigorous fiscal standard. Defense spending increases were given a thumbs up, and it’s hard not to argue that these times are even more dangerous than whatever normal level of danger is out there. Defense spending is also opaque by necessity, but that doesn’t excuse the industry from a reasonable level of compliance with fiscal responsibility. Ensuring that, however, means industry lobbyists and defense insiders will practically brand you as a traitor to be voted out of office at the next election. Democrats, on the other hand, would have raised taxes by trillions and ensured spending, especially entitlement spending, matched the increased revenue and thus added to the deficit. The Senate has a similar plan to the GOP House budget plan, and in April the detailed work of hammering out a compromise proposal with its accompanying theatrics will begin in Washington.

The last time the budget was balanced, it was almost by accident. Back around 1994-5, the Clinton administration had had no idea that a soaring tech-fueled economy would create so much tax revenue – thank you Herbert Walker Bush – over the following years. Newt Gingrich ensured that spending did not go out of control in such heady times, and lo and behold, endless surpluses were being predicted by 1998. Things changed really quickly, to say the least. So the question now is: what will it take for the US Federal Government to produce a balanced budget? And when might it ever happen? Unlike the Clinton years, defense spending is not going to get cut back, so what is the possibility that social spending will ever be seriously trimmed? Some sort of attempt at rolling back Obamacare will indeed happen, as political theatre only. It will be vetoed by the Obama himself and the GOP can claim “we lived up to our promises.”

And finally, is this all insider Washington scheming with taxpayer dollars, or do a majority of voters in America reject balanced budgets? Between the theoretical and generalized goal of a balanced budget and the particulars of spending cutbacks in any given congressional district, the particulars often seem to win out. Perhaps a majority of voters are indeed ready to endure a little relative austerity in fiscal matters. But it will take a courageous and convincing voice to sell that reality to those voters who don’t really have the time, energy, or inclination to spend their evenings worrying about deficits. Which is most of us.