The debate over how to reduce U.S. debt levels has generated a lot of partisan huffing and puffing in Congress, but no meaningful action.
Enter President Obama's bipartisan fiscal commission, which will hold its first meeting in a few weeks.
The panel's goal is not to erase the deficit - that would be far too difficult at this point. Rather, the commission will recommend policies that can slow the growth rate of debt to a "sustainable" level. Among other things, that means making sure annual deficits don't grow faster than the economy.
The commission's first task is to figure out what lawmakers can do to bring the annual deficit as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP) down to 3% starting in 2015.
Broadly speaking, Congress has three options: raise taxes, cut spending or do both. None will be pretty.