The co-chair of the bipartisan Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform told Senators Tuesday that Americans are way ahead of them when it comes to understanding the need for Washington to cut spending.

In a Senate Appropriations hearing, former Rep. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., said Congress needs to get serious about spending cuts.

"People in America are way ahead of all of you," Simpson said. "They know what's going on."

Simpson added that as Americans sit at their kitchen tables working through their own financial issues, they understand not only the need for spending cuts, but that continuing to borrow money without dramatic belt-tightening doesn't make sense.

"They know that if you spend more than you earn, you lose your butt, and they know that if you spend a buck and borrow 40 cents of it, you must be stupid," Simpson said. "And they've got it figured out that this government is stupid."

If Congress doesn't act on Social Security, Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles suggested it may not be able conduct any meaningful spending cuts.

"If you can't get social security solvent after 75 years, if this Congress cannot do that, you can forget everything," Simpson said. "You will never get to Medicare, Medicaid and Defense. You will have failed what we see as the easiest thing to do."

And Simpson balked at the idea that making changes to Social Security is the same as stealing from seniors, saying the entitlement program was never intended to sustain older Americans, especially as life expectancies continue to rise. He argues that when the program began, the average American wasn't supposed to live long enough to see benefits.

"The average age of life was 63 and that's why they set the retirement age at 65, the beginning of the greatest ponzi of all time. Now life expectancy is 77... Don't swallow this business that we're balancing the budget on the backs of poor old social security people. That's a fake, it's a phony, it's wrong, it's untrue," Simpson said.