Mr. Obama has published the 10-year numbers in part, it seems, to make the point that the political gridlock of the past few years, in which most Republicans refuse to talk about tax increases and Democrats refuse to talk about cutting entitlement programs, is unsustainable. His prescription is that the problem has to be made worse, with intense deficit spending to lower the unemployment rate, before the deficits can come down.
Mr. Summers, in an interview on Monday afternoon, said, “The budget recognizes the imperatives of job creation and growth in the short run, and takes significant measures to increase confidence in the medium term.”
He was referring to the freeze on domestic, non-national-security-related spending, the troubled effort to cut health-care costs, and the decision to let expire Bush-era tax cuts for corporations and families earning more than $250,000.
But Mr. Summers said that the long-term projections of deficits were “not sustainable,” and that “through the budget and fiscal commission, the president has sought to provide maximum room for making further adjustments as necessary before any kind of crisis arrives.”
Turning that thought into political action, however, has proven harder and harder for the Washington establishment. Republicans stayed largely silent about the debt during the Bush years. Democrats have described it as a necessary evil during the economic crisis that defined Mr. Obama’s first year. Interest in a long-term solution seems limited. Or, as Isabel V. Sawhill of the Brookings Institution put it Monday on MSNBC, “The problem here is not honesty, but political will.”