WASHINGTON - The entire country is on something of a collision course with more than $14 trillion in debt.
CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid reports that in recent months President Obama has repeatedly promised to tackle the nation's long-term debt, including the massive entitlement programs.
Mr. Obama has called programs like Medicare and Medicaid "the single biggest contributors to our long-term deficits."
Until recently, he refused to offer his own plan. That will finally change Wednesday, when he unveils his so-called "vision" on cutting the debt. Critics say, it's about time.
"At least the president is joining the conversation. Hopefully that conversation is an adult one," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Political analysts say the president had good reason to wait. He wanted the Republicans to go first, and they did last week when influential Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin released his controversial plan
"In a sense the president needed Paul Ryan's house budget plan to use as a foil for his own argument about what government should do, what government's priorities are. He will say that the Ryan plan does not match up with America values," said CBS News political analyst John Dickerson.
Over time, the Ryan plan would convert Medicare from an insurance program for seniors into a less generous subsidy, and it would put a cap on Medicaid, which serves the poor, saving about $750 billion over 10 years
To the White House, it's an irresistible opportunity to portray Republicans as callous and extreme.
"It places all the burden on the middle class, on seniors, on the disabled, on people in nursing homes," said White House press secretary Jay Carney.
While giving few details, the White House says the president's plan will trim Medicare and Medicaid with a scalpel, not a machete
While the Ryan plan cuts tax rates for the top bracket from 35 percent to 25 percent, the president is expected to repeat his call for the wealthy to pay more.
Republicans predict the president will follow what they call a familiar pattern: cutting too little and taxing too much.
House Speaker John Boehner threw down the gauntlet Tuesday, declaring that "tax increases are unacceptable and are a non-starter."
Some liberal Democratic groups are also angry even before the speech is delivered. They predict the president will propose deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, and, if he does, some liberal groups say they'll protest by refusing to give to his presidential campaign.