But the CBO also warns that drastic debt reduction might backfire by harming the recovery.
Even the relatively mild measures enacted for 2013 will retard growth, says the CBO.
Recall what these are: the end of the 2 percentage point cut in Social Security payroll taxes; the cuts in defense and non-defense discretionary spending mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011; and tax increases imposed on high-income households (mainly singles with incomes above $400,000 and married couples with incomes exceeding $450,000).
In 2013, the CBO projects that the economy will grow only 1.4 percent.
Without the deficit-reducing measures, growth would be about twice that, it reckons.
The difference is worth about 2 million jobs in 2013, according to Elmendorf.
The exit from this dilemma, Elmendorf suggested, is to time deficit reduction with a strengthening private-sector recovery.
As private spending improves, cuts in government spending or tax increases would threaten the economy less.
Elmendorf argued that the transition from government-generated to private demand is now occurring.
Americans have paid down loans; they have more leeway to increase everyday spending.
Rising home values and stock prices have boosted confidence. Employment is increasing.
State and local government spending is stabilizing.
"We see momentum building," says Elmendorf.
The CBO has economic growth picking up to 2.6 percent in 2014 and then averaging about 4 percent through 2017.
Unemployment falls from 2012's 8.1 percent to 5.6 percent by 2017 (annual averages).
So the conflicts can be reconciled, with one big "if."
The private sector's recovery has to be vigorous enough so that deficit reduction's dampening effects can be absorbed without causing a new recession.
After nearly four years of lackluster growth - even with massive doses of "stimulus" from the budget and the Federal Reserve - this remains a crucial unknown.