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If the prolonged debate regarding the raising of the nation’s debt ceiling had any positive effect it was an increased awareness of government spending and what that spending means for our future.

Even though opposition to raising the debt limit threatened to shake the nation’s already shaky economy the Tea Party Republicans can be credited with changing the conversation regarding legislation that had previously been considered routine.

The U.S. faces hard choices in the very near future — choices about entitlements and spending that it can no longer afford to delay. Waiting until the eleventh hour to fix programs such as Medicare and Social Security will only inflict more hardship on the populace. In the face of a lagging economy and over-commitment by our government we will  go broke unless changes are made.

What politicians are loath to tell you is that the only way for the U.S. to get out of its fiscal mess is for all of us to pay more to the government and receive fewer services from the government. That’s a difficult platform for a candidate to run on but it’s the only honest one.

Taxing only the rich might sound like an easy solution but there aren’t near enough of them to get us out of debt. An all-cuts budget plan isn’t reasonable either. Contrary to politicians’ claims, there isn’t enough waste in federal budget to make this problem go away while still  meeting necessary government obligations. 

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis pointed out in an editorial that was reprinted in the Brainerd Dispatch July 29 that Medicare, Medicaid and a children’s health insurance program consumed 21 percent of the federal budget in 2010. Social Security expenses used up another 20 percent, in an amount that equals the defense budget.

Addressing this problem will cause real pain and we’re all going to feel it. Politicians who are honest enough to share that truth with you next year should earn consideration for your vote. Those who tell you we can right our course without everyone feeling some pain might deserve a slammed door in their face.