Obama’s Broken Deficit Promise

Feb 13, 2012 12:49pm
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(Image Credit: Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

“This is big,” wrote White House director of new media Macon Phillips in a February 23, 2009 blog post, ”the President today promised that by the end of his first term, he will cut in half the massive federal deficit we’ve inherited. And we’ll do it in a new way: honestly and candidly.”

Indeed, President Obama did make that promise that day, saying, “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.”

The 2013 budget the president submitted today does not come close to meeting this promise of being reduced to $650 billion for fiscal year 2013.

The president noted in that 2009 speech the Obama administration inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit.

The deficit was similarly $1.3 trillion in 2011, is projected to be $1.15 trillion in 2012, and the president’s budget claims it will be $901 billion in 2013.

George Stephanopoulos asked White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew about this yesterday:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, tomorrow’s budget’s going to make it clear that that promise will not be kept, not even close, really. The deficit will be well over $1 trillion for the fourth year in a row. Why?

LEW: You know, George, as I think you know, when we took office, the economy was falling so fast that the first thing we had to do was put a bottom in. That cost money in the Recovery Act. It cost money in terms of lost revenue and slower economic growth. We’re on track now. We’ve seen several months of sustained economic growth and job creation, but we’re not out of the woods yet. That’s one of the reasons that we still need even this month for Congress to take action and pass the extension of the payroll tax cut. The president’s budget is a plan for 10 years, and over the 10 years, what it would do is bring the deficit down to below 3 percent of the economy, which means that we won’t be adding to the deficit based on current spending. Secondly, it’ll bring the debt as a percentage of the economy down to a point that all international financial organizations look at and say is what you need to do to have stability.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But not even as quickly as you were projecting several months ago.

LEW: Well, look, the economic projections in a time of — of recovery from the deepest recession in a generation are going to fluctuate. Frankly, in the last three months, we’ve had better news than we expected in terms of job growth. That’s a good thing. I think that what we have to do is focus on the long term and the short term at the same time. In the short term, we need to keep the economy growing. In the long term, we need to get the deficit under control in a way that builds the economy that can last for the future, where we build a manufacturing base, we have Americans with the skills to do the work for the future, we have energy so that we can provide for more of our energy needs, and we do it in a way that’s consistent with American values so that everyone pays a fair share.

-Jake Tapper

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