GAO Comptroller General David Walker, who has spent the last three years on a "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour," again reiterated his agency's warning that the country is on an "imprudent and unsustainable fiscal path," while stressing the need for bi-partisan cooperation and the courage to make tough choices for the longer term. Walker, who has traveled to some 25 states on his tour, said simulations by the GAO and the Congressional Budget Office show that despite a three-year decline in the budget deficit, the U.S. faces "large and growing structural deficits driven primarily by rising health care costs and known demographic trends." The auditor general pointed out that the first wave of Baby Boomers has already filed for early Social Security retirement benefits -- and will be eligible for Medicare in just three years. Walker said rapidly rising health care costs are not simply a federal budget problem, but rather the No. 1 challenge to the U.S. and that the problem calls "for us as a nation to fundamentally rethink how we define, deliver, and finance health care in both the public and the private sectors." Walker said "While Congress and the administration are focused on the need for a short-term fiscal stimulus, our long-term challenge increases the importance of careful design of any stimulus package. It should be timely, targeted and temporary, while at the same time creating a capable and credible commission to make recommendations to the next Congress and the next president for action on our longer-range and looming fiscal imbalance."
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