My concern right now is that the way Republicans are handling the debt ceiling—and every short-term crisis—may end up being a distraction from achieving what should be their long-term goal of putting the country on a sustainable path. Here is why: Ultimately, the government will need to raise the debt ceiling. In fact, if we don’t reform entitlement spending growth we will need to raise it again many times. There is no other option. Without changes, spending as a share of GDP is projected to almost double over the next 30 years (from 23 percent today to 40 percent in 2045). The gap between revenue and spending will grow considerably, causing the public debt to grow from 70 percent of GDP today to about 250 percent by 2045. So in a sense this fight over raising the debt ceiling is merely symbolic if Republicans’ greatest demand is nickel-and-dime discretionary spending cuts. Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favor of fighting for any spending cuts. But the real fight is about addressing our long-term problems, which will require significant reform to the drivers of both our spending and debt: Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and the new health-care entitlement.

Unfortunately, unless I am missing something, I do not see lawmakers fighting that long-term battle at the same time as they are expending lots of energy trying to avoid sequestration cuts.