Editor's note: Barbara Boxer, a Democrat, is the junior U.S. senator from California. She is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
(CNN) -- When it comes to the fiscal challenges facing our country, Republicans always insist on taking the hard road.
They nearly set off a recession by waiting until just after New Year's Eve to agree to keep taxes from rising for millions of middle-class families. They caused the first credit downgrade in our country's history by threatening a catastrophic default. And now they seem ready -- even eager -- to let painful automatic spending cuts take effect, which would result in the loss of at least a million jobs.
The good news is there's an easier path.
We can stop this self-inflicted wound to our economy -- and we must -- but we have to act fast.
There are many common sense ways to reduce our deficit and avert the sequester, which would hit defense and domestic programs with $1.2 trillion in indiscriminate cuts over 10 years. While we have started discussing some of these ideas at the Senate Democratic retreat this week, here are few of mine:
-- We should begin by applying the nearly $700 billion in savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan toward reducing the deficit and avoiding these automatic cuts.
-- We should let Medicare negotiate drug prices, which would save as much as $200 billion over 10 years and lower drug costs for seniors.
-- And we should crack down on tax fraud and corporate tax evasion, which could help save more than $100 billion a year.
These three proposals alone could help us save nearly $2 trillion over 10 years. They are popular with the public and would help us address our long-term fiscal challenges.
These savings would build on the almost $1.5 trillion in spending cuts that we have already approved since President Barack Obama took office, which are helping to reduce our deficits to the lowest level in five years.
House Republicans have offered their alternative to avoiding the sequester, known as "Plan C." The plan would spare the Pentagon any pain, but it would slash investments that benefit the middle class, seniors, children and the poor -- from child lunches to cancer research to meals on wheels programs.
That's not a solution -- it's a recipe for disaster. We can do better.
Americans got a wake-up call last week when the GDP figures were released, showing that our economy shrank by 0.1% in the fourth quarter of 2012.
A massive dose of austerity is exactly the wrong prescription for our country right now. The president was right when he said on Tuesday that our economy is heading in the right direction and will continue to do so as long as Congress does not inflict more damage.
Our top priority should be strengthening the economy, and that includes preserving critical investments in things such as education, transportation and medical research that create jobs.
When it comes to reducing our debt, let's take the easy path. That means a balanced approach of new revenues and sensible spending cuts that will keep our economy growing and protect American families.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Barbara Boxer.