The debt ceiling deal passed this summer may have saved the United States from defaulting, but it has not changed much.

While the deal cuts at least $2.1 trillion over the course of a decade, it also raises the debt ceiling by up to $2.4 trillion, resulting in what some advocates tout as a budget deficit of only about $300 billion. So it would seem.

The problem is that the cuts will slowly be implemented over 10 years while the debt will now increase to a total of $16.7 trillion and that borrowed money will probably be spent almost immediately.

All the deal does is buy time, as it avoids any major financial overhauls (such as cutting or reforming major programs like Defense and Social Security) and it does not create new sources of tax revenue.

How can a nation expect to get out of debt without cutting more than it borrows or refusing to borrow more at all?

The decision by ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) to downgrade America's credit from AAA to AA+ reflects how the danger of being unable to repay our debts is a great concern to the global markets, and taking on more debt does not help calm those fears.

The downgrade should serve as a warning to shake U.S. citizens and policymakers into action.

Regardless of what rhetoric or finger pointing politicians or the media use, everyone is to blame for the accumulation of the debt and for our failure to act decisively. Voters put these politicians from both parties into office.

Now, with a divided Congress, compromise is necessary; a realistic solution requires sacrifice from all.

The Republicans must be willing to close tax loopholes, raise some taxes, and reduce defense spending. The Democrats must be willing to reform and cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Reducing one or two of these programs will not be enough.

Contrary to popular belief, the wars and defense spending alone did not create the debt.

The debt is composed primarily of deficit spending to finance defense, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not to mention their unfunded liabilities. These must be dealt with if America is serious about saving its economy.

This has been made clear not only by S&P, but also many other independent agencies and think tanks.

Either we act now to save some of these programs, or we will get nothing later as these programs become more fiscally unsustainable.

With the interest on the debt alone at roughly $200 billion a year and the debt reaching 100 percent of our GDP, it is not unreasonable to wonder how much longer America can afford to spend recklessly.

Although the debt deal sets up a bipartisan committee to identify new cuts, there is reason to be skeptical.

Both parties and the president have previously made promises to deal with the debt and failed to keep them. Also, the last bipartisan committee on the debt had its recommendations shelved and ignored.

According to Pew Research Center polls, the necessary cuts and tax changes remain unpopular with many voters, making it more difficult for Congress to implement any appropriate measures identified by the bipartisan committee in a full and timely manner.

Even then the citizenry must keep watch and hold the government accountable, as it has tweaked its numbers multiple times during this crisis.

During the debt ceiling negotiations, the Congressional Budget Office calculated that both the Democratic and Republican debt plans had been off by billions in their supposed savings, revealing the false promises of their plans.

The total national debt is higher if one accounts for the estimated unfunded liabilities of $37.9 trillion from Medicare and $7.7 trillion from Social Security.

America must hold its president and representatives responsible and to be honest with their numbers.

It must be repeatedly made clear that great reforms to programs and taxes are needed as well as reductions in spending.

There is no other way that is fiscally sound and politically feasible. Even the recent address by President Barack Obama to both houses of Congress and the nation doesn't change much. His announcement of his $450 billion American Jobs Act is not the long-term debt solution needed.

Although America does need to upgrade its infrastructure, and his ideas for tax breaks are a good incentive to help businesses hire, it still remains to be seen how this will actually be paid for, simply because it is unlikely for Congress to agree on which programs to cut (regardless of what the bipartisan committee might recommend). The idea of tax breaks, though good, is also problematic because it was unclear in his speech how long they would last.

Unless businesses know what to expect from the government over the next five to 10 years, they will be more cautious about deciding whether to hire or invest.

Obama's stated willingness to reform Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are a good step forward, but he was vague on details. Similarly unclear was his claim to have found over 500 red tape reforms which would save unspecified billions.

Neither Obama nor the Republicans have actually presented a fiscally sound, long-term debt reduction plan that tackles the big four budget items: defense, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Until the leaders of Congress decide that consistent negative public opinion is worth imposing a realistic debt reduction program, or the majority of Americans realize they can't have both their current entitlements and pay off the debt, little progress will be made.

The debt deal may have provided some temporary relief, but a band-aid will not save a nation that needs surgery.

John Dale Grover is a member of the Class of 2014.