February 24th, 2009 11:44 EST
Obama: By End Of First Term Deficit Will Be Cut In Half
WHITE HOUSE BLOG
This is big -- 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.
"This will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we`ve long neglected," President Obama said. "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."
Before we turn this boat around, we`ve got to acknoweldge how deep underwater we are:
"For too long, our budget process in Washington has been an exercise in deception -- a series of accounting tricks to hide the extent of our spending and the shortfalls in our revenue and hope that the American people won`t notice.... budgeting zero dollars for the Iraq war -- zero -- for future years, even when we knew the war would continue; budgeting no money for natural disasters, as if we would ever go 12 months without a single flood, fire, hurricane or earthquake."
"We do ourselves no favors by hiding the truth about what we spend," the President said. "In order to address our fiscal crisis, we`re going to have to be candid about its scope."
As the summit concluded, the President took questions and comments from the assembled members of Congress and the business and non-profit communities. He started with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who emphasized the need to cut excess from defense spending -- citing as an example reports that the two-year-old plan to overhaul the fleet of Marine One helicopters had gone significantly over-budget.
"We all know how large the defense budget is," Sen. McCain said. "We all know that the cost overruns -- your helicopter is now going to cost as much as Air Force One. I don`t think that there`s any more graphic demonstration of how good ideas have cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money...[W]e have to make some tough decisions -- you, Mr. President, have to make some tough decisions about not only what we procure, but how we procure it."
"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 joked, before continuing with a more serious response. "But I think it is an example of the procurement process gone amuck. And we`re going to have to fix it....One of the promising things is I think Secretary Gates shares our concern and he recognizes that simply adding more and more does not necessarily mean better and better, or safer and more secure."