The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has a shiny new budget simulator. Derek Thompson takes it for a spin:

Ultimately the real lesson you learn as you play is that stabilizing debt, even when the method is box-checking, is painful.

I recommend it, if only because you may be surprised by your choices. I did the test quickly, forcing myself to be tougher than I would want to be. It doesn't ask you to perform the impossible; it lays out the real options in front of us and tries merely to get the debt stabilized at 60 percent of GDP by 2018. There are some options that are not there - I'd like to find a way to push the retirement age to 70 - but most are.

My policy preferences cut the debt to 51 percent of GDP in 2018 (compared with 85 percent on its current trajectory), and they did so, it turned out, by raising taxes by a $1.5 trillion and cutting spending by $1 trillion. That's largely because I favor the expiration of the unfunded Bush tax cuts. I could trim my tax hikes a lot though and still make the goal of 60 percent. Give it a whirl.

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