The most recent New York Times “Week in Review” includes a fascinating (and sobering) interactive graphic that allows readers to grapple with various options for controlling the federal budget deficit.

I have two quick takeaways: (1) many of the most frequently-championed actions, such as eliminating earmarks or cutting the federal bureaucracy have only a marginal impact on the nation’s finances, which means that much of the political and media debate about this subject is poorly focused; and (2) that the choices most Americans would make when confronted with a full set of trade-offs might well be different from the reactions measured in polls, which simply test options in isolation.