Washington's Fiscal Wake-Up

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It's the dirty little secret politicians don't like to discuss. The federal government is spending more than it collects, running up the nation's credit card, and leaving a legacy of debt to the next generation. 

"Whether you're a liberal, conservative, Democrat or Republican, the numbers just don't add up over the long term," Robert Bixby, head of the Concord Coalition, said.

Bixby is one of a group of economic analysts from think tanks including the Concord Coalition, The Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institution, and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, who launched a nationwide "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour."

The Tour that began in 2005 has visited more than 30 cities across the country to sound the alarm about the nation's long-term fiscal outlook that threatens to scuttle the nation's economy. 

"We may not be a national power anymore because we're in hock to the rest of the world for so much money," Bixby said.

Some describe it as the perfect storm. A tidal wave of 75-million baby boomers now beginning to retire are expecting government Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. 

"The unprecedented nature of what we're facing now," Bixby said. "The cost of these entitlement programs combined with the growing percentage of the population which is 65 or over. "

Add in additional expenses like skyrocketing health care costs and interest to foreign lenders and fewer workers to pay for it, and America could drown in a sea of debt.

Bixby says instead of fixing the growing financial problems, Washington made things worse. It approved another program -- a pricey prescription drug benefit for seniors. 

"The prescription drug benefit was one of the most fiscally irresponsible things congress and the president have done in a while. Its unfunded cost is larger than the total unfunded costs of social security," he said.

Economists are calling on presidential candidates and Congress to act to prevent a future fiscal crisis before it's too late and Americans face higher taxes and rationing of government benefits.

Bixby said, "The longer we wait, the more drastic the changes will have to be, and the more disruptive to peoples lives."

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Melissa Charbonneau

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