On the cover of my local newspaper today (big city in a big state) is
the headline, "Fiscal train wreck feared: Experts say lurking U.S.
crisis may spur market plunge, pension losses, lower standard of living."

For some reason (control of the media?) it is not only not on the
newspaper's website but nowhere on the Internet that I can find.
However, there are many sites with essentially the same information. 
Here's one link, of many, I came up with and also a short segment of
the article.

Federal budget experts speaking at a conference in Minneapolis offered
a bleak forecast for the nation's fiscal health. The panel included
representatives from both conservative and liberal organizations.
Despite their political differences, they generally agreed the country
faces a looming financial crisis, and elected officials aren't making
the tough choices required to fix the problem. The panel spoke at the
University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute on Monday

Minneapolis, Minn. — U.S. Comptroller General David Walker doesn't
mince words when talking about the nation's financial condition.

"We are on an imprudent and unsustainable path. Every day, it's
getting worse," says Walker, who heads the Government Accountability
Office, which audits the federal government.
Larger view     
        Image Brian Riedl       

Walker says most of the U.S. budget is on autopilot, consumed by the
three massive entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare and
Medicaid. Walker says the budget deficit is down from last year's
record high of $412 billion, but he warns the deficit could still
balloon in the future, as 77 million baby boomers hit retirement age.

"We have not yet begun to face the demographic tidal wave -- the
demographic tsunami, if you will -- associated with the retirement of
my generation, the baby-boom generation," according to Walker.

Walker says rising health care costs threaten to bankrupt the country
long-term. He's also concerned about the cost of the Medicare
prescription drug benefit set to begin in January. Walker and other
budget experts say the situation isn't hopeless if elected officials
are willing to confront the problem. But the solutions aren't easy.

Isabel Sawhill, director of Economic Studies at the liberal Brookings
Institution, says the nation can't simply rely on economic growth to
generate enough taxes to solve the problem. She says there is some
federal pork that can be cut, but simply trimming spending won't close
the gap.

"Eventually taxes must be raised and spending cut. The sooner that's
done, the less costly and painful it will be, and we need presidential
leadership and bipartisan compromise to get all of that done," says
We have not yet begun to face the demographic tidal wave ...
associated with the retirement of my generation -- the baby-boom
- U.S. Comptroller General David Walker

Sawhill says both Republicans and Democrats will have to fix the
problem together, to provide political cover for making the tough choices.

Brian Riedl, the lead budget analyst at the conservative Heritage
Foundation, says there's not much appetite for that among lawmakers in

"There is not much courage out there," according to Riedl. "They will
go whichever way the wind is blowing on a lot of these issues. And if
they're not hearing it from the grassroots, and they're not hearing
any pressure, they're going to focus on the political calendar,
they're not going to focus on the long term."

Riedl and other budget experts say without public pressure, Congress
and the president will delay the difficult decisions. The panel
members said they want to see more public debate on the nation's
fiscal woes. But Riedl acknowledges that won't make the medicine any
easier to swallow.

"Like an alcoholic, the first thing you have to do it admit you have a
problem ... The flip side of it is, Americans are vehemently opposed
to every possible solution," he says.

Riedl's organization has critized the Bush administration for the
growth in government spending. But Riedl gives President Bush credit
for proposing Social Security reform, even though the plan went
nowhere. Riedl says reforming the entitlement programs is critical.
For example, he says the Medicare drug benefit should be limited to
low-income seniors. But unless elected leaders reduce the nation's
fiscal obligations, future generations will face the consequences of
an ever-expanding federal debt.

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