US President Barack Obama said on Sunday he would follow through on a pledge to rein in the soaring US budget deficit and said that would involve presenting Americans with “some very difficult choices” next year.
Obama also said that he believed a review of the “messy and unfair” US tax code should be considered as part of a plan to deal with long-term budget problems.
“I’m serious about it,” Obama said when asked at a news conference at the G20 summit in Canada if he believed he could meet his deficit reduction goals.
The G20 summit was dominated by a debate among the world leaders about how quickly to shift from a focus on economic stimulus toward deficit reduction.
The US has warned against withdrawing stimulus too quickly, saying the world economy remains fragile but US officials have also said it is important to keep in mind the need for fiscal prudence.
Obama has proposed freezing spending on an array of domestic programs for the next three years and named a special commission to recommend ways to curb spiraling debt and deficits. The panel is to report back by Dec. 1. Obama will review the recommendations and decide how to go forward sometime early next year.
“I’m doing it because I said I was going to do it,” Obama said. “People should learn that lesson about me, because next year, when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country, I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficits and debt step up, because I’m calling their bluff.”
Amid the worst recession since the Great Depression, the US budget deficit hit US$1.4 trillion last year. It is projected to come in at about US$1.6 trillion this year.
Obama has said the deficits are a legacy of the administration of former US president George W. Bush, but Republicans have tried to cast Obama as a big spender and have attacked last year’s US$862 economic stimulus package.
Republicans hope to use the issue to put Obama’s Democrats on the defensive ahead of the November congressional elections.
Despite political wrangling over deficits, Obama said he has been hearing both from Democrats and Republicans that “there’s been a serious conversation” about budget deficits and the need to address them.