Erskine Bowles realized how tough his task will be leading President Obama's war on the federal budget deficit when he told his 90-year-old mother of his appointment.
She was proud of him. Then she said, "Don't mess with my Medicare."
It won't be the last threat Bowles gets this year as he directs an 18-member, bipartisan commission through an ocean of red ink that has never been deeper or more foreboding.
Under Obama's budget plan, the USA's debt in 2020 would be nearly the size of the entire economy then. Interest costs would be $900 billion, five times today's level.
The White House, Congress, budget experts and typical Americans are growing anxious about the nation's mounting debt, which is helping to fuel the rise of the anti-tax, anti-big government Tea Party movement.