President Obama Proposed To Cut Federal Budget Deficit in Half
The President had convened the Fiscal Responsibility Summit in the East Room, White House earlier today, Feb.23. The participants included the Vice President, members of Congress, business, and nonprofit communities.
The key point of the President's speech was his proposal to cut the massive Federal budget deficit in half by the end of his first term. It was a preview of the Tuesday night presidential prime-time address to Congress.
The following excerpts are from the President's speech at the opening of the Fiscal Responsibility Summit held in the East Room, White House.
For the full text of the President's remarks, NP readers can read here.
My administration came into office one month ago in the depths of an economic crisis unlike any that we've seen in generations. And we recognized that we needed to act boldly, decisively and quickly -- and that is precisely what we did.
These are all extraordinary -- but necessary -- measures to address this economic emergency, and as has already been noted, they will come at a cost. This administration has inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit -- the largest in our nation's history -- and our investments to rescue our economy will add to that deficit in the short term. We also have long-term challenges -- health care, energy, education and others -- that we can no longer afford to ignore.
We are paying the price for these deficits right now. In 2008 alone, we paid $250 billion in interest on our debt -- one in every 10 taxpayer dollars. That is more than three times what we spent on education that year; more than seven times what we spent on VA health care.
And that's why today I'm pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office. This will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we've long neglected. But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay -- and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control.
To start reducing these deficits, I've committed to going through our budget line by line to root out waste and inefficiency -- a process that Peter and our administration, our team, has already begun. And I'll soon be instructing each member of my Cabinet to go through every item in their budgets, as well. And already we've seen how much money we can save, just in the last 30 days.
Take one example -- the Department of Agriculture has moved some of its training programs online, saving an estimated $1.3 million a year. They're modernizing their financial management system, saving an estimated $17.5 million. They're saving tens of thousands of dollars by cutting back on conferences and travel and other small expenses that add up over time.
So we will replicate these efforts throughout the federal government, eliminating programs that don't work to make room for ones that do -- and making the ones that we keep work better. We'll end the payments to agribusiness that don't need them and eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq. We'll end the tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas and we'll stop the fraud and abuse in our Medicare program.
In the end, however, if we want to rebuild our economy and restore discipline and honesty to our budget, we will need to change the way we do business here in Washington. We're not going to be able to fall back into the same old habits, and make the same inexcusable mistakes: the repeated failure to act as our economy spiraled deeper into crisis; the casual dishonesty of hiding irresponsible spending with clever accounting tricks; the costly overruns, the fraud and abuse, the endless excuses. This is exactly what the American people rejected when they went to the polls.
Before the summit concluded around 4:43 PM, the President took some questions and comments from the attendants. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) asked the first question, who emphasized the need to cut excess from defense spending by citing as an example reports that the two-year-old plan to overhaul the fleet of Marine One helicopters had gone significantly over-budget.
The President responded with a bit of humor, "Well, John, let me -- this is going to be one of our highest priorities. By the way, I've already talked to Gates about a thorough review of the helicopter situation. The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me. Of course, I've never had a helicopter before --- maybe I've been deprived and I didn't know it."
The President continued with a more serious response about the procurement process,"... gone amok. And we're going to have to fix it. Our hope is, is that you, Senator Levin, and others, can really take some leadership on this."
The President closed the meeting by echoing his earlier statements that, "... the recovery package will account for about one-tenth of 1 percent of our long-term debt. The real problems are the structural deficits and the structural debt that we've been accumulating and all of us are complicit in.
So we've got to get that taken care of. We would have had to get it taken care of whether or not there was a recession; this just underscores the urgency of it. And I'm hopeful that we move forward in that spirit in the days and weeks and months to come."
Source: The White House Press Office