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The era of big government is over. Really.

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AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

(Read caption) The Jefferson Memorial is seen through cherry trees covered in blossoms along the Tidal basin in Washington. Growth of the federal government would be curtailed under both Republican and Democratic deficit-reduction proposals.

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President Obama's plan, unveiled yesterday, to slash the federal deficit over the next decade has a similar trillions-of-dollars sweep aas the plan Rep. Paul Ryan (R) proposed last week. But there are key distinctions -- primarily the increase in taxes Mr. Obama proposes versus the tax cuts Mr. Ryan advocates.

More programs would be affected under Ryan's plan than Obama's. Ryan is calling for privatization of Medicare and handing over Medicaid to the states. Obama wants cuts in defense and unspecified controls on healthcare spending.

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Politicians and analysts will burn through tons of pixels and ink arguing over which programs should be axed, how to restructure others, and whether some groups should be taxed more. But let's pause for a moment to at least note where we are: The beginning of the end of deficit spending.

It would take a truly extraordinary development -- another financial meltdown, a stunning natural disaster, a major war -- to change US fiscal direction. With the economy in a tenuous recovery and demographic trends foreshadowing major claims on Medicare and Social Security, there is little room for government to get bigger or to fall more deeply in debt.

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