Douthat turns a skeptical eye to the Canadian example:

Canada’s budget was balanced because a right-of-center party passed a V.A.T., whose massive unpopularity helped elect a large left-of-center majority, which then used its newfound power to make drastic spending cuts. To have an equivalent sequence of events in American politics, you would need Barack Obama and the Democrats to pass dramatic cuts to Medicare and Social Security in 2014 or so, followed by a 2016 campaign in which Bobby Jindal and his running mate, Paul Ryan, swept to victory by promising to repeal the entitlement cuts, but then broke their promise once in office and starting raising taxes instead.

Stranger things have happened. But not many.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.