Is it really hard to balance the federal budget?

There is a lot of discussion about how politically impossible it is to keep ourselves from destroying our economy by increasing our long-term government deficit to unsustainable levels. Everyone has an interest, no one wants to reduce entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, and, in general, our financial meltdown in the next couple of decades is, as they say, "baked in".

Today's NY Times has an interesting interactive graphic that lets you play with possible budget cuts and tax increases to close the gap.

I had no trouble at all doing it.  In fact, I found that I had proposed a bunch of tax increases that I could roll back. If I didn't roll those back, I presume I could be running a substantial budget surplus by 2030. My "new" taxes arenow just Bowles-Simpson loophole reduction with an overall tax rate decrease, which would make sense anyway, out of a concern for simple fairness and transparency, and a small carbon tax (I actually favor a revenue-neutral carbon tax, with corresponding reductions in payroll taxes, particularly for low-income earners who are disproportionately affected by higher energy costs--but that wasn't one of the choices).

Almost everything suggested seems relatively easy. Do we really need to entertain ourselves by maintaining a gigantic, contrary-to-Founding-Father-principles standing military? Do we acknowledge that Social Security and Medicare cost huge amounts of money, or do we pretend we get them for free? Do we pay special interest groups to deform our economic production?

Any particular cut might injure our personal interests. But the need to make the totality of cuts is in all of our interest. Can we actually manage to do it?

Give me a laptop and an interactive chart, and I can do it today.