Briefly, I have one major complaint with the strategy of Congressional Republicans with regard to the budget. Senator McConnell and Speaker Boehner have basically said they will kill any proposal to raise the debt ceiling without something on the order of a trillion dollars (that's $1,000,000,000,000) in cuts. But whenever you ask them or the rest of their party to get specific about where those cuts should come from (aside from just naming entitlement programs in general), they get very quiet.
Here's the thing, defense spending, debt service, and entitlement spending make up something like 3/4 of the federal budget. Obviously, there's no choice on debt service. Bring up the possibility of deep cuts to the DoD (as Secretary Gates has done) and suddenly the GOP starts hemming and hawing about how every dollar the Pentagon gets is sacrosanct. And entitlement spending, as someone on MSNBC brilliantly phrased it yesterday, is a political dirty bomb. Social Security has long been called (correctly) "the third rail of American politics." As in, "touch it, and you die." Add Medicare to that score now, as NY-26 demonstrates. Voters are awfully quick to which ever party wants to interfere in their entitlement programs. So basically, the Republicans are complaining about the debt being run up, blocking any measure to, I don't know, raise revenue, opposing efforts to cut defense spending, and essentially expecting President Obama to either go along with the ridiculously unpopular Ryan plan* to blow up Medicare, or find another way to commit political suicide by proposing deep entitlement cutbacks. President Obama may be many things, but a political neophyte he is not, and I'm pretty sure he's not in a hurry to commit seppuku just to do the Republicans a favor.
Personally, I think serious thought has to be given to a few things. 1) Raising the retirement age. People are living longer, period. You don't need to be an actuary to figure that out. Unfortunately, say the words "raise the retirement age" to most people, and you get immediate hostility. But if anyone could sell it, it would be President Obama. 2) Raising the payroll tax cap to ensure the long-term viability of Medicare and Social Security. 3) Raising corporate and individual income taxes generally, or at the very least cutting out some loopholes and deductions. Revenue must increase. If the Republicans weren't committed to being the Church of Cut My Taxes, they might realize that.
My point: One party is being serious about the debt. The other is not. I think we all know which is which.
*A plan which also would require the debt ceiling to be raised by another five trillion dollars. Fiscally responsible, my ass.