My hat* is off to Doug Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office. This slide -- one of 28 he presented at Harvard -- is the best and simplest description I've seen of the budget debate:

One note: "Current law" includes sequestration. That means that it includes deep cuts to both defense and domestic spending. As such, the spending cuts in the Senate Democratic plan are deeper than I think this slide would lead you to believe. They're just not much deeper compared to sequestration -- which carried such deep cuts that it was never supposed to go into effect. But that's not Elmendorf's fault. It's the fault of Congress, which permitted sequestration to take effect.

That aside, this single slide cuts through a lot of Washington's nonsense in the budget debate. The Republican budget is usually criticized for voucherizing Medicare, but that proposal doesn't take effect for 10 years -- if it ever takes effect at all. In the next decade, their budget is based on truly massive cuts to everything except Social Security, Medicare and defense. The Democratic budget achieves less total deficit reduction but stabilizes and reduces the debt by modestly increasing taxes and modestly cutting spending.

In that way, the Democratic budget is a much more conservative document than the Republican budget, at least insofar as "conservative" denotes a modesty in policymaking and a reluctance to make radical changes to the status quo.

* If Glenn Kessler were here, he'd give me four Pinocchios, as I'm not actually wearing a hat.