While many Americans view the debt deadlock in Washington as a national stumbling block, advocates for Social Security and Medicare saw it as a victory when the congressional supercommittee declared defeat last week.
The programs they view as vital to the country's safety net were spared serious cuts when the committee failed to issue a plan. Yet experts warn that changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will have to be part of any solution to curtail the country's $15 trillion debt.
"It's just a fantasy to think that you can address this problem over the long term without looking at the entitlement programs," said Bob Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group dedicated to eliminating budget deficits.
Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid make up about 40 percent of federal spending, he said. And they are only expected to grow as more baby boomers retire and health care costs continue to rise.
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