Question/Comment: How can any elected official do anything about the economy when 90 percent of the budget goes to the military, entitlement programs, earmarks and the national debt?
Paul Solman: She or he can vote to spend less (or more) on the military, entitlement programs (by amending them) and earmarks (by forgoing them). If the elected official could persuade colleagues to spend less and nothing else changes, there would be lower annual deficits between spending and revenues or maybe even surpluses. Lower deficits mean a slower-growing national debt which is nothing more than all the accumulated deficits over the years. Surpluses mean a shrinking national debt, as long as the surplus goes to pay off some of outstanding debt.