As a senior member of the Joint Economic Committee, I have been giving close attention to the work of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform – and, especially, to recent suggestions made by the Commission’s co-chairs, former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Clinton.

Needless to say, the work of this important Commission has not been easy. President Obama and the Commission deserve credit for moving forward with a difficult national discussion about how best to achieve a more fiscally responsible plan for our nation.

Having given credit where credit is legitimately due, I also must acknowledge my deep concerns about some of the policy choices that the Commission’s co-chairs have suggested.

We must not allow ourselves to become distracted from the more serious and immediate goal of re-creating the balanced budget that President Clinton left our nation. In this vein, the Commission co-chairs’ basic error is their failure to connect the major causes of our deficits with the areas in which budgetary reform is most warranted.

We should not confuse the specific and more limited challenge of extending the long-term solvency of Social Security with the broader need to change the overall spending and revenue patterns of our nation.

Our historic and unshakable commitment to our aging and disabled workers is not causing our Federal budget deficit. For that reason, among others, cutting Social Security benefits should not even be considered as a general deficit solution.

Social Security functions with its own revenue stream and payment policies. Long-term solvency can be assured by focused and relatively modest future adjustments that do not require reductions in Social Security benefits. One option would be to increase the earned income that is subject to Social Security taxes beyond the current $106,800 wage cap.

Nor are our general budgetary problems principally the result of veterans’ healthcare costs, federal aid to public education or our commitment to reducing crime – as would be suggested by proposals to impose co-pays on veterans, cut education spending, and cut the budget for the Department of Justice.

While we seriously examine our budget and work to get our fiscal house in order, it is neither fair nor economically prudent to balance our budget on the backs of America’s children, veterans or working families.

Where, then, should our examination begin?

A significant portion of our current deficits can be traced to our failure to pay currently for two wars, tax cuts for our wealthiest citizens and the Medicare drug plan.

Unless we can find a way for the rest of the world to pay more of the cost, we must transform the era of America’s overseas nation-building into a more modest (and peaceful) pattern of engagement.

With respect to federal tax policy, most experts agree that tax cuts for the middle class stimulate our economy. In this way, it can be argued, middle class tax cuts are more than “paid for.”

However, it is far from clear that extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the most affluent of our citizens (as the Republicans are insisting) would produce a similar benefit in fiscal terms. To the contrary, tax cuts for the wealthiest among us that are not “paid for” are budget busters unfair to future generations.

As to paying for the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan that our seniors so desperately need, President Obama and congressional Democrats have already taken the lead. During the past two years, we began the long-term process toward general fiscal balance by addressing the increasing strain that rapidly rising health care costs place on our economy.

Without Republican cooperation, we enacted landmark healthcare reforms that, alone, are expected to reduce our federal budgetary deficits by more than one trillion dollars over the next 10 years.

We also enacted financial regulatory reforms that will help to prevent predatory mortgage practices and end the Wall Street recklessness that triggered the Great Recession.

Now, we Democrats must be unafraid to declare to the new House Republican majority, “You must end your tendency to borrow, spend and, then, complain about borrowing.”

Americans are prepared to share the pain for everyone that balancing our national budget will entail. However, we also must insist that this national challenge be overcome in an honest and socially equitable way.

This, in my view, is the fair and balanced approach to lasting budgetary reform.

Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.