How refreshing it is to see the actual lawmaking process finally proceeding — in the light of day — as the secretive closed-door meetings favored by this White House finally recede! This is how things are supposed to work in our republic.

Here’s where the debate stands: The Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate now seem to be singing from the same sheet of music on the following three points: the debt ceiling needs to be raised, taxes won’t be raised (thanks to the House GOP’s principled insistence on this point), and spending cuts must exceed the size of the debt-ceiling increase (again, thanks to the House GOP).

The two bodies are in disagreement on at least three other points: one, whether having surge-level spending in Iraq and Afghanistan not continue for the next decade — as no one expects that it would — counts as a legitimate spending cut of $1 trillion (the estimated cost of 10-year surges under current law); two, whether there should be caps on future spending; and three, whether the debt ceiling should be raised by at least $2.4 trillion, so that President Obama can make it through his reelection campaign without having to deal with another debt-ceiling debate.

Yes, that’s right: Just to get through November 6, 2012 (or at least to do so without cutting it too close for the White House’s comfort), we’d have to borrow an estimated $2.4 trillion — about the same amount of money that we borrowed (in inflation-adjusted dollars) to fight World War II.

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