Without such a plan, we’re told, America could very quickly face an economic calamity of historic proportions — at a time when millions of Americans are still trying to recover from the last one.

As one of the major credit agencies recently put it, 'The rating outlook [of the U.S.] will depend on the outcome of negotiations on deficit reduction, a credible agreement on substantial deficit reduction would support a continued stable outlook; lack of such an agreement could prompt Moody’s to change its outlook to negative on the AAA rating.’

This is serious stuff. And many of us have been hoping for and working toward a serious bipartisan solution, a plan that would convince the American people, the markets, and the world that America is capable of getting its fiscal house in order.

And let’s be clear about something else here: we all know what such a plan would look like. Everyone, including the president, knows that we cannot rein in our debt without a reform of long-term entitlements. And everyone knows that any serious plan would have to be in the trillions to get the job done.

That’s why even the Democrat chairman of the Budget Committee said this week that he wouldn’t even support a plan that proposed to cut less than $4 trillion over the next 10 years.

And that’s also why it’s so concerning to many of us that some have begun to suggest a different goal for these talks.

Over the past several days, some have suggested in various news stories that the real goal of these talks is to devise a plan that satisfies one side by reducing the debt and satisfies the other side by raising taxes. The suggestion here is that this is all just some big quid pro quo exercise between the two parties.

This is dangerous, and it’s wrong.

And I think it’s important that we dispel it.

The central issue in these talks, as every serious person knows, is our nation’s massive deficit and debt — and the disastrous long-term consequences for jobs and the economy that would result if we don’t do something about it.

We have this problem because government spends too much. The way to solve it is to spend less.

It’s mystifying, really, that at the 11th hour some would now propose tax hikes as a condition of any agreement.

It’s mystifying not only because of the absurdity of proposing a tax hike as a way to help the economy and create jobs. It’s mystifying, above all, because we know that a tax hike would never make it through Congress. Not because of Republican opposition — but because of Republican and Democratic opposition. We’ve already had the votes to prove it.

Six months ago, Democrats couldn’t even muster enough votes to pass a tax hike on upper income Americans when they had 59 seats in the Senate and a huge majority in the House. Less than two weeks later, they voted almost four to one in favor of keeping the current tax rates in place.

So there’s one of two things going on here: either someone on the other side has forgotten that there’s strong, bipartisan opposition in Congress to raising taxes.

Or someone involved is acting in bad faith.

We’ve known from the beginning that tax hikes would be a poison pill to any debt reduction proposal.

Those who are proposing them now either know this or they need to realize it quickly.

And that’s to say nothing of those who are now proposing more spending as a solution to our debt crisis. This isn’t just mystifying, it’s farcical. I mean, most Americans had to wonder if they were dreaming this morning when they saw this headline:

'Democrats call for new spending in U.S. debt deal’

More spending? As a solution to a debt crisis? What planet are they on?

All of which gets at a larger issue in this whole debate. And here I’m referring to the continuing silence of the one person who matters most to its outcome.

For weeks, lawmakers have worked around the clock to hammer out a plan that would help us avert a crisis we all know is coming — all the while knowing that at some point the president would have to sign it. So it’s worth asking: Where in the world has President Obama been for the past month?

What does he propose? What is he willing to do to reduce the debt and avoid the crisis that is building on his watch.

He’s in charge. I think most Americans think it’s about time he starts acting like it. It’s not enough for the President to step in front of a microphone every once in a while and say a few words that someone hands him to say about jobs and the economy.

Americans want to see that he’s actually doing something about it. What they see instead is more bad economic news every day, a gathering crisis that threatens to make current problems even worse, and a President who is either unwilling or unable to recognize that our nation’s economy is in serious trouble.

He’s the president. He needs to lead. He needs to show that he recognizes the problem. And do something about it.

We’re not in the majority. We can’t sign anything into law. That’s the president’s job.

Yet until now, he’s stood in the background. He’s acted as if it’s not his problem. Well, it is. This is his problem to solve.

America is waiting.