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Today is budget day, so we’re going to be hearing a lot about the budget deficit. Probably from me, too. But here’s really all you need to know:

80% of the federal budget goes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Pentagon, and interest on the national debt. So where are we trying to find cuts? The other 20%, naturally.

This is doomed to failure, and everyone knows it. But we’ll continue with the kabuki show anyway.

Also this: if we simply let the Bush tax cuts expire in 2012 — all of them — and went back to the Clinton tax rates of the 90s, our medium-term deficit problem would be reduced to 3% of GDP in a stroke. That’s pretty manageable. And we could do it, too: it’s not as if the 90s were a hellscape of jackbooted IRS thugs confiscating all your money and driving the economy into the ditch, after all.

Beyond that, we should do something sensible about reining in the growth of Social Security and Medicare.

In other words, the things we should do are precisely the things that are completely off the table. This is called “listening to the will of the people.” Welcome to America.

UPDATE: Letting the Bush tax cuts expire would reduce the deficit substantially, but not make it “nearly vanish.” I’ve corrected the text to make it more accurate.

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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