By Mike Lillis - 07/12/10 03:14 PM EDT
The heads of President Obama's newly formed deficit commission told state leaders this week that the nation's budget woes begin and end with the entitlement programs, particularly Medicare and Medicaid.
Speaking on Sunday to the National Governors Association (NGA) in Boston, former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson (Wyo.) and Erskine Bowles, who was chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, warned the debt is a "cancer" that will "destroy the country from within" if Congress doesn't make some tough choices soon.
They said that means a sharp focus on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending, which alone threatens to swamp the economy within the decade.
"The rest of the federal government, including fighting two wars, homeland security, education, art, culture, you name it, veterans, the whole rest of the discretionary budget, is being financed by China and other countries," Simpson said.
To solve the crisis, the budget experts said, everything — including a controversial proposal to means-test for Medicare coverage — must remain on the table.
Without a change of course, Bowles warned, taxpayers will be paying $2 trillion within a decade on the interest on the debt alone.