GEITHNER: George it is absolutely right and very important for everyone to understand that we will not get this economy back on track, recovery will be not strong and sustained, unless we are -- can convince the American people that we're going to have the will to bring these deficits down once recovery is firmly established.
Remember, we inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit. The cumulative consequences of policies this country pursued over the last eight years left us with $6 trillion more debt than we would have had by making a bunch of commitments to cut taxes and add to spending. Without paying for those, we are not going to be able to afford to do that. And it is very important people understand.
Our first priority now, though, is to get this economy back on track, make sure this financial system is repaired. Without that, we're not going to get our deficits under control.
And the necessary path to fiscal responsibility, the necessary path to getting this country living within our means again is not just health care reform, to bring down those costs, but we're going to do a range of other things. And that's going to be a very difficult challenge to this country.
We can do this, it just requires the will to act.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Including new revenues?
GEITHNER: Well, we're going to have to look at -- we're going to have to do what is necessary. Remember the critical thing is people understand that when we have recovery established, led by the private sector, and we have to bring these down, deficits down very dramatically.
We have to bring them down to a level where the amount we're borrowing from the world is stable at a reasonable level. And that's going to require some very hard choices. And we're going to have to try to do that in a way that does not add to the -- unfairly to the burdens that the average American already faces.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's the dilemma...
GEITHNER: That is the dilemma.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... isn't it? Because even when you look at health care reform again, I know you believe it's going to bend the cost curve over time, but the Congressional Budget Office says at best the health care reform plans out there are going to be deficit-neutral over the next 10 years.
So to bring the deficits down there's not enough money in the discretionary budget. We all know that. That means more revenues. The president has said that taxes won't go up for any Americans earning under $250,000.
But it doesn't appear he's going to be able to keep that promise if you're going to bring the deficits down.
GEITHNER: George, again, we can't make these judgments yet about exactly what it's going to take and how we're going to get there. But the very important thing, and no one is going to care about this more than the president of the United States, is for people to understand that we do not have a choice as a country.
That if we want an economy that's going to grow in the future, people have to understand we have to bring those deficits down. And it's going to be difficult, hard for us to do. And the path to that is through health care reform.
But that's necessary but not sufficient. We're going to do some other things as well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So revenues are on the table as well?
GEITHNER: Again, we're not at the point yet where we're going to make a judgment about what it's going to take. But the important thing...