Economists demand entitlement reform on eve of Ryan budget

More than 350 economists and other experts are demanding that House and Senate leaders tackle entitlement reform in the 2012 budget.

Their open letter to congressional leaders cites the healthcare reform law, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as "the greatest budgetary threats" facing the nation. Circulated by the conservative American Action Forum, the letter comes one day before House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is expected to unveil a 2012 budget that radically transforms the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

"There can be no greater national priority than reducing the prospective explosion of federal debt," the letter reads. "Reforming entitlements must be at the top of the agenda for the 112th Congress."

Democrats' healthcare reform act would in fact shrink the deficit by some $210 billion between 2012 and 2021, according to the Congressional Budget Office. However, many conservatives — including American Action Forum President Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former CBO director under President George W. Bush — argue that the law will instead add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit, in part because of unsustainable cuts to Medicare payments.