After calling for more civil discourse, President Obama’s speech at George Washington University came as a partisan thunderclap that confirmed Americans’ worst fears. Based on the way the president publicly slapped around Rep. Paul Ryan, the budget divide between Democrats and Republicans appears to be an insurmountable chasm.

After calling for more civil discourse, President Obama’s speech at George Washington University came as a partisan thunderclap that confirmed Americans’ worst fears. Based on the way the president publicly slapped around Rep. Paul Ryan, the budget divide between Democrats and Republicans appears to be an insurmountable chasm.

Immediately following the president’s speech, Standard & Poor’s warned: “We believe there is a material risk that U.S. policymakers might not reach an agreement on how to address medium-and long-term budgetary challenges by 2013.” Any downgrade of our AAA rating would be disastrous for all of us.

Under the Bush administration, deficit spending proceeded at an unacceptable level, and under President Obama, it has accelerated at a historically unprecedented pace. Ryan’s plan reduces the deficit by $6.2 trillion over 10 years. The president’s speech indicates that he wants to reduce it by $4 trillion over 12 years. Neither approach wipes out our debt entirely.

The real problem is that Americans do not want to hear about a need for spending restraint, particularly the 47 percent who pay no income tax at all. We blithely call for attacking fraud and abuse or taxing the rich or dropping foreign aid or exiting a war.

Fraud and abuse: Unfortunately, there is no line item called “fraud or abuse.” It would be wonderful if there were, but no one has yet suggested a specific mechanism to do this that could put a dent in the deficit.

Taxing the rich: The top 10 percent pay 69 percent of all taxes. The top 10 percent are those who make about $114,000 or more per year. Let’s round that off to $100,000 (more than 10 percent). If we confiscate 100 percent of the income of everyone who makes $100,000 or more per year, Internal Revenue Service data indicates that would only give us an extra $3.4 trillion toward our $14.3 trillion debt. To make any difference, you would have to raise rates on the middle class. However, we should never allow any discussion of that until Washington demonstrates it can control spending.

Foreign aid: Most people think it is about 10 percent of the budget, but in reality, it is less than 1 percent .

Defense spending: Our deficit for 2011 is projected to be $1.6 trillion. This year, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined will cost about $170 billion. The entire Iraq war has cost $700 billion. Even if you dismantled the entire Defense Department, that would only bring in $664 billion per year.

The public adamantly refuses to cut the federal education budget, anti-poverty programs, homeland security, farm subsidies and funding for arts and sciences. Let’s face it, folks: No one wants their ox gored, but the math does not work out. We will not dig our way out of this mess without addressing the 800-pound gorilla in the room – entitlement reform. However, we must try to keep our promise to those approaching retirement.

Entitlement reform must be accompanied by tax reform (i.e., getting rid of loopholes, certain deductions, etc.). When GE makes $3 billion in profit and pays less income tax than you or me, something is wrong. If we are serious about clearing our entire $14.3 trillion debt in the next decade, we will eventually have to make a slight adjustment in tax rates for the middle class simply because that is where the tax money is. Any other approach will take much longer.

But first, cool the rhetoric and address spending.