CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The two leaders of a bipartisan commission formed in 2010 to identify ways to fix the nation's financial problems said Monday that there's plenty of blame to go around for the nation's ballooning debt.
Alan Simpson, a former Republican U.S. senator from Wyoming, and Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, spoke at the Culture Center at the Capitol in Charleston on Monday, warning about growing financial problems from our national debt, which recently topped $16 trillion.
Simpson and Bowles are co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibilities and Reform, created by President Barack Obama in 2010.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who invited them to Charleston, said he wants to work with all sides to reach an agreement to cut the national debt.
"But Republicans don't want to look at [new] revenues," Manchin said, "while Democrats don't want to look at reforms."
Bowles, who said "deficits of over $1 trillion a year are like a cancer," said the largest problem the American government faces is health care.
"We spend twice as much as any other developed country on health care, measured by per capita spending or percentage of GDP [gross domestic product]. But we rank between 25th and 50th in categories including life expectancy and infant mortality," Bowles said.
Americans without health care insurance regularly go to hospital emergency rooms for health care, which costs between five and seven times as much as going to a doctor, he said.
Both Simpson and Bowles also questioned the nation's defense spending.
"We spend more on national defense that the next largest 15 largest countries put together, including China and Russia," Bowles said. "I don't think America can afford to be the world's policeman."
Simpson also questioned the growth in military spending.
"Erskine was right about military-industrial contractors. They will eat up the country's financial system," Simpson said.
The Simpson-Bowles commission's final plan was supported by 11 of the commission's 18 members voted for the plan, but a supermajority of 14 members was needed to make the plan official. Among the members who voted against it was Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., now the Republican candidate for vice president.