The least dumb path would deal with the debt in a way that is gradual, balanced between spending cuts and revenue increases and intelligently targeted rather than the current law’s bludgeon. This is the path outlined by debt reduction commissions such as Simpson-Bowles. Unfortunately, it is not the subject of the current debate.
President Obama has called for a balanced solution but has neither proposed serious tax reform nor adequately outlined the ways in which he would get entitlement spending, particularly Medicare, under control. The position of most Republicans, on the presidential campaign trail and in Congress, is wildly less responsible. They imagine a world in which the debt can be tamed by spending cuts alone; the Republican presidential candidates call for trillions in additional tax cuts beyond extending the expiring ones.
To hope that the CBO report might chasten policymakers is probably too much, but even a glimpse of its conclusions ought to cause them to rethink their approaches.