Our present fiscal problem is that we expect too much from government and are unwilling to pay for it. That's why I'm a firm advocate of using the phrase "limited government" as opposed to simply "small government". If you accept that government should have limits, then it's not hard to accept that it should also respect fiscal limits -- like not spending more than we take in.

There are exceptions, of course. Not all debt is bad: Inter-generational debt is fine for building Interstate highways or winning WWII. But debt that gets passed from generation to generation is not OK if only your generation benefits and the next one is forced to pay...and that's the kind of debt we're racking up right now.

In round numbers, the Federal government spends about 21% of the country's economy, but we only pay about 17.5% in taxes and other government revenues. That 3.5% gap is a big problem, and there's no way to cut the 21% in spending enough to justify a big decrease in that 17.5% in taxes. The only result will be more debt -- and that means more pain for ourselves down the road, and for future generations.

Part of the problem is with those who want government to do too much. But part of the problem is also with those who demand tax cuts at any price. Some people want government to be small, but fail to take responsibility for paying for the things they want -- and that's not "limited government", it's passing the buck. A government that responds to today's greedy voters by shoving its hands in the pockets of tomorrow's taxpayers is a very unlimited government indeed.

But you don't have to take my word for it, nor my philosophy. Maya MacGuineas of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget joined me on the show this weekend to discuss: