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It’s one thing to talk a good game about cutting spending, but it’s quite another thing to actually do something about it. This week, the House of Representatives has an opportunity to finally set some limits on Washington’s spending spree while also ensuring that the U.S. military has the resources it needs to defend America. Here’s the lay of the land this week in the nation’s capital.

On Thursday, the House is set to take up a spending reduction plan known inside the beltway as “reconciliation.” Under the measure, Congress would tackle two looming problems hanging over Washington’s head: the soaring cost of entitlement spending and the arbitrary defense cuts mandated by the so-called Budget Control Act (BCA) that was enacted last year.

Those issues are nothing to gloss over, even though some in Washington would like to pretend they’re not a problem. Since 1965, spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security has more than tripled as a share of the economy, is continuing to grow at a rapid rate, hitting 9.7 percent of GDP this year, and will nearly double by 2050. Meanwhile, spending on defense has dropped over time, even when you add in the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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