No one expects the United States to pay off its debt (as we did in the administration of Andrew Jackson, the only time a major country has ever paid off its national debt). Even in a best-case scenario, the absolute size of the debt will not get smaller. But if we can summon the necessary political will, we can dramatically affect the measure of the debt burden that matters: the debt-to-GDP ratio.
Just do what we did after World War II, a period that saw its share of recessions and wars, both hot and cold: stop adding to the debt and let the growth of the GDP bring down the ratio.
If the country can experience GDP growth equal to what we had in the 1990s, the debt-to-GDP ratio would drop, in just a decade, to 56.7%, about where it was in 2000.
But that can only happen if the American electorate sends an unequivocal message in November 2012. Voters did exactly that in November 2010. Will they do it again?