Associated Press
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson discusses the economy Sept. 15.

Recently, the Bush administration assembled a $1 billion aid package for Georgia. The United States has an obligation to assist allies such as former Soviet states that are fledgling democracies.

It is somewhat surprising to learn that the United States has $1 billion to spare, particularly as we are told that the federal government will end the year with a $407 billion deficit, not including however much it takes to solve the current economic crisis. The bailouts of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are expected to cost at least $200 billion.

Most of us understand what it means to go into deficit spending in a household budget. It means carrying forward sizable credit card balances, returned check fees and for some, repossession of homes and automobiles. For our nation, the federal deficit has far-reaching consequences — greater dependence on foreign lenders, taxpayer dollars spent to pay billions of dollars in interest payments on the growing debt and more inflation.

Politicos are quick to point the finger of blame at one another. Republicans blame the "do-nothing Congress." Democrats blame the Bush administration for higher defense costs and costs associated with insolvent financial institutions. Health-care costs, the Medicare prescription drug program and a natural growth in other entitlement programs also play a role. The sluggish economy is a key factor.

The truth is, it's a bipartisan problem that could burden generations to come unless the government narrows the gap between its spending and available revenues.

Many Americans will be looking to the next president to right this ship. Budget analysts say neither of the budget plans offered by Democratic nominee Barack Obama or GOP nominee John McCain will significantly help. Some budget watchdog organizations say both plans would add to the federal debt.

These issues are further complicated by projections by the Congressional Budget Office that the slowing economy, i.e. lower tax receipts, could result in a $438 billion deficit in the coming year.

One gets the distinct impression that it could take years to whittle down the deficit. Still, it's not impossible. The dot-com boom enabled the Clinton administration to make considerable progress. The deficit tends to worsen in poor economic conditions. That's largely out of the hands of government. Congress and the administration alike have control of other issues that significantly contribute to the problem, however. It's time for both to tighten their belts.