The New York Times website has a budget puzzle widget on it that allows you to decide what to do in order to reduce the budget deficit the United States has run for decades. At first, it seems so simple that you wonder why every congressman doesn’t have one these on his office computer. Push a few buttons and the problem is solved.

But if you think about it for a moment, the decision making has really already been done for you. The options are wide ranging, but by no means did the Times have an exhaustive list of the kinds of things you can do to increase government income and reduce government’s expenses. What it does do is provide, in very graphic detail, a way for the average American citizen to see how much reducing any deficit is going to depend on both a reduction in spending and an increase in income.

How hard was it to use? I balanced the nation’s annual budget in about 5 minutes, with a cup of coffee in my hand.

In reality, it would have taken a congressman that long just to get somebody on the phone who would listen to him. But I didn’t have any votes to gather, or caucuses to placate, or large donors who wanted to know when I was going to start looking out for them.

Try it out anyway, even though you may not agree with the arbitrary way the Times editors came up with the specifics on the options you could choose from to reduce the deficit. What you will find out is what most people with common sense have known all along—even with deep cuts to our military and federal employees, there still will not be enough of a reduction to start running a surplus unless we raise taxes at the same time.