Considering that our nation currently holds a national debt of nearly $15.5 trillion, and that the federal budget deficit for this year is projected at $1.08 trillion by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, it is clear we have a significant spending problem that needs to be tackled sooner rather than later.

In his February budget testimony, Panetta implied that further reductions to the defense budget would amount to taking a “meat ax” to our defense capabilities. The metaphor is intended to suggest that the cutting is indiscriminate (although if you’ve ever watched a butcher at work, you know how skillfully he can wield his tools to cut out the fat and unnecessary tissues to leave the best cut of lean meat, which would be a worthy goal).
Perhaps more appropriate metaphor would be to consider that the federal budget right now is a sick patient, and a surgical intervention is needed to put him on the course toward a healthy future. But that’s going to require serious leadership on budget matters in Washington. Here’s hoping we get it.

Brooks is policy director of Public Notice, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit dedicated to providing facts and insight on the economy and how policy affects our financial well being.