In the next few weeks, the United States will be focused on deficit reduction. Analytically, the task of deficit reduction is simple: cu!ing expenditures and raising taxes. Politically, the task of deficit reduction is enormously difficult, for each cut in expenditure or increase in taxes hurts someone, and typically, some powerful group. ... What matters is not the deficit itself or the short-run national debt, but long-run levels of the national debt. The country should be looking at its national balance sheet. Debt reflects only the liability side. In assessing the economic strength of a firm, no one would look just at its liabilities; they would also look at its assets. The single-minded focus on deficits and short-run debt is thus fundamentally misguided.