Voter outrage in 2012 or 2014 could make the quarrels of 2010 seem like a Victorian debating society. It’s a matter of simple math. Within the next few years, government leaders will be forced to make some of the most painful decisions in decades. The U.S. government now spends something like $1 trillion more per year than it takes in, borrowing the difference. With the national debt approaching dangerous proportions, this must end, or else the mighty United States will end up hamstrung like Greece, begging its creditors for forbearance. And there’s no way to spare middle-class voters the pain this is going to cause.

Slogans make the problem sound simple, but Tea Partiers heading to Washington will quickly discover that solutions don’t fit in the palm of one’s hand…

Voters are cranky now because the economy stinks, unemployment is high, Washington is out of touch, and the usual Beltway dickering for political advantage does nothing to improve the nation’s fortunes. But amid this discontent, Washington is still giving voters a free ride by offering services and subsidies that will have to be paid for in the future—by the same people who are recipients of the largesse today. When that bill comes due, Washington will have no choice but to ask taxpayers for more, give them less, and try to explain why sacrifices are suddenly necessary. The winners in November will be the incumbents when that earthquake hits. They want to take government back? They can have it.