Will the current fight between the White House and the Republicans in Congress over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling lead to that most elusive of Washington creatures, the "Grand Bargain?" It ranks with the searches for Bigfoot, Elvis and friendly customer service.
The grand bargain -- some combination of spending cuts and taxes that puts the U.S. on a path toward a more balanced budget -- has been the object of efforts as diverse as the Simpson-Bowles commission in 2010 and the fevered efforts to avoid sequestration late last year. What propels these efforts is a simple truth -- the U.S. government is borrowing more money than it brings in. And as a result, the national debt stands at nearly $17 trillion and the government is paying approximately $220 billion annually in interest.
Without substantial changes, the situation is likely to get worse as the U.S. population ages and health care costs rise. As debt watchdog the Concord Coalition noted: "Thousands of additional baby boomers become eligible for Social Security and Medicare each day, which means the government must spend substantially more money just to provide the same individual benefits as in the past."
So, what do you think? Will a grand bargain come out of the current economic chaos?