The most sacred cow -- the mortgage interest deduction -- is simply not needed to support homeownership. Canada doesn't have it and enjoys similarly high rates of ownership. Both countries are land-intensive with more room to spread populations around major cities than Europe.
Renting among the middle class is highest in North America where land is most expensive, even though high incomes make the value of the mortgage interest deduction the greatest -- for example, in New York City.
Phasing out wasteful deductions and credits, and tackling entitlement reforms -- rather than tweaking Medicare and Medicaid eligibility rules, payment rates and the like -- are needed for real progress.
With so many Americans living well into their 80s, most folks will have to work until they are 70 and social security and other government pension programs should acknowledge this reality.
The prices Americans and federal and state governments pay for health services are 50% to 100% higher than in Europe, where individual countries rely on a wide variety of public and private provider systems.
Democrats are about to learn Obamacare may guarantee coverage but only at great cost. However, Republicans won't admit that competition, which has been widely applied in Medicare and private insurance, hardly accomplishes the cost savings Europeans achieve through competent regulation.
Until both sides focus on getting everyone to pay something meaningful for their government and requiring taxes on wealthier Americans to be distributed fairly, and accept the consequences of longevity and necessity for meaningful price regulation in health care, Washington's chronic budget woes can't be solved.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.