The co-chairman of President Barack Obama's deficit reduction commission said Tuesday that Obama would endorse its findings, including politically toxic tax increases and painful cuts to retirement benefits that the president was unwilling to propose on his own.

The co-chairman of President Barack Obama's deficit reduction commission said Tuesday that Obama would endorse its findings, including politically toxic tax increases and painful cuts to retirement benefits that the president was unwilling to propose on his own.


But even as Obama urged the 18-member bipartisan panel to keep open all of its options to fight "exploding deficits," forces on the right and left were urging just the opposite.


In opening-day testimony before the commission, panel members were amply warned that failure to reduce the deficit could lead to higher interest rates, harm the economy and ultimately erode Americans' standard of living.


"The path forward contains many difficult trade-offs and choices, but postponing those choices and failing to put the nation's finances on a sustainable long-run trajectory would ultimately do great damage to our economy," Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke said.


As Bernanke testified, the stock market began a precipitous dive as Standard & Poor's downgraded the debt of Greece, which is caught in a debt crisis, to junk bond status.


Obama urged panel members to rise above Washington's bitter partisan atmosphere.


"There are few issues on which there is more vigorous bipartisan agreement than fiscal responsibility," Obama said, flanked by Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., the two men he asked to lead efforts to reach a consensus plan for the deficit. "But in practice, this responsibility for the future is often overwhelmed by the politics of the moment."


Obama explicitly told reporters in the White House's Rose Garden that neither he nor commission members would say what deficit-closing options remain viable.


"We're not playing that game. I'm not going to say what's in. I'm not going to say what's out. I want this commission to be free to do its work," the president said.


It's a task, though, that won't be easy: produce a deficit no bigger than $550 billion by 2015, an amount equal to about 3 percent of the total U.S. economy. That would require deficit savings in the range of $250 billion or more.