The commission's tentative report released this past week suggests spending cuts and tax increases that would only trim the projected federal spending deficit in half to $3.8 trillion over the next decade -- and there's already wailing that it's too harsh.
The alternative to the pain of a little uncharacteristic austerity in Washington is much more dire: If the dollar collapses, as surely it will if we stay on this track, so will the economy.
You'll see a lot more pain then.
Even if Washington went along with the commission's proposals, notes USA Today , the budget still wouldn't balance for 27 years.
That's how deep a hole we're in.
And yet, the whining about the commission's modest proposals has been palpable from weak Washington -- the same one that got us in this hole.
"Simply unacceptable," was how outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the commission's work. It's easy to criticize solutions when you're part of the problem.
USA Today, on the other hand, calls the commission's work "a sobering tutorial in how far Congress will have to go -- not to balance the budget, because the proposal doesn't do that for 27 years -- merely to get the deficit and the debt back under control over the next decade."
Said a different way, even if we cut through all the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth and adopt the commission's recommendations, we'll still be spending more than we take in for the next 27 years.
Pelosi's right, though not for the reasons she supposes; three more decades of deficit spending is, indeed, "simply unacceptable."
To really do the job, the cuts have to be deeper.
Just as important, this country cannot absorb higher taxes. Taxes are high enough.
The commission proposal would cap federal revenues at 21 percent of gross domestic product. And while that's an improvement over the nearly 25 percent of GDP we've seen under President Obama, it's higher than the average of about 18 percent of GDP since the 1940s.
In short, even under the commission's "harsh" proposals, tax rates will still be well above what they were in most of our lifetimes.
Cutting Social Security benefits and other entitlements, as the commission bravely suggests, will be mandatory, as entitlements gobble up more and more of the federal budget in years to come and baby boomers overwhelm the system.
Expect demagogues in Washington to protest that too -- and try to delude both them and us that broad, deep entitlement cuts aren't necessary.
Early reports indicate the commission may recommend lower corporate tax rates, which could help our international competitiveness, as well as a $4.6 billion cut to foreign aid, an end to congressional earmarks and a three-year freeze in federal salaries, all of which would be good steps to take.
But much more will need to be done: As a spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste told us, even under the commission's proposals "government would still be growing and all these recommendations would do is slow the (growth). We don't support any growth (in government) right now and want to see real cuts."
Rest assured, we've put the day of reckoning off so long that even with modest austerity measures, there will be blood.
It's not a good sign that the tears are already flowing.