And for those wanting to take the deepest of dives, there’s reason to explore aspects of just why and how we got to this fiscal Armageddon in the first place. Here’s one theory: In late fall, Thomas Edsall, the former Washington Post political reporter, wrote a long piece in The New York Times about what he called the “underlying and inadequately explored theme of the 2012 election.” He considered the work of a number of economists about the prospects for growth and then argued:

The conservative political class recognizes that the halcyon days of shared growth with the United States leading the world economy may be over. The wealthy are acutely aware that the political threat to their status and comfort would come from rising popular demand for policies of income redistribution.

That’s why, Edsall argued, Republicans are determined to protect the Bush tax cuts, prevent tax increases and further cuts in domestic social spending, and kill off the welfare state. Hence the debate over whether the US can afford Social Security and Medicare.

It’s a big argument. Is he right? This and many related questions require a hard look at the nation’s economic pie—how it’s cut up now and in the future. It’s a good bet audiences will be interested in that, and no reporter will be bored.

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Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.