Lost in the battle over Obamacare and the ongoing government shutdown is the need for serious, long-term budget reform.

While Republicans have been beating the drum for deficit and debt reduction more loudly than Democrats, their efforts have largely and misguidedly been tied to stopping Obama’s signature healthcare law.

While defunding Obamacare has become the focus of some members of the GOP, particularly among the Tea Party element, it’s so far been a losing proposition and likely will remain so.

Any bill repealing the Affordable Care Act would be destined to fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate and would never be signed by the president.

As Congressional leaders try to push a virtually immovable rock up the proverbial cliff, serious debate, one that would include the possibility of entitlement reform and tax reform, has stalled.

So far, the consensus appears to be that Republicans are to blame for the shutdown. Neither side, however, seems inclined to have any substantive discussion. They say they want to, but have essentially become mired in a debate merely over process.

Members of both parties are stuck arguing about who will talk to whom and what to negotiate, but not actually negotiating.

Had the Republicans concentrated on a more substantive debate, particularly reforming entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security, they may have carried the day, and likely had a better outlook heading into the 2014 midterms.

While Obamcare is unpopular, people aren’t rallying in the streets against it. And while the law certainly presents challenges, the core of it – actual insurance coverage – doesn’t even start until January. The debate over entitlements and tax reform, on the other hand, has lasted for decades, and has garnered bipartisan support, at least among voters.

While such reform sadly appears to be a long shot as well, it’s a more sensible fight and one that could offer greater dividends to the country’s financial prospects.