Vows to make hard choices to curb debt
WASHINGTON – President-elect Barack Obama Tuesday ripped outgoing President George W. Bush for “irresponsibly” doubling the federal debt, then warned that he could preside over trillion-dollar-a-year deficits for “years to come.”
Huddling with his budget team, Obama told reporters he would ban pork-barrel spending projects known as earmarks from his proposal to stimulate the economy. He also vowed to make the difficult choices necessary to curb runaway deficits and debt.
He said, however, that he wouldn’t propose his first federal budget until after the stimulus proposal – which itself could cost about $800 billion. And he cautioned that staggering annual deficits would continue even after that.
“At the current course and speed, a trillion-dollar deficit will be here before we even start the next budget,” Obama said at his Washington transition office.
“We’re already looking at a trillion-dollar budget deficit or close to a trillion-dollar budget deficit, and … potentially we’ve got trillion-dollar deficits for years to come, even with the economic recovery that we are working on at this point.”
He also defended his choice of Leon Panetta to be director of the CIA – despite his having no direct experience in intelligence gathering – and said he’ll have “plenty to say” about the Israel-Gaza fighting after he takes office in two weeks.
Obama stressed that Panetta’s experience as a congressman and White House chief of staff will help him and others reverse Bush administration policies such as allowing torture.
“He is one of the finest public servants that we have. He brings extraordinary management skills, great political savvy, an impeccable record of integrity,” Obama said.
His team also worked to repair some of the political damage caused by failing to notify Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the incoming chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, of the coming nomination.
“It’s always good to talk to the requisite members of Congress,” Vice President-elect Joe Biden told reporters on Capitol Hill. “I think it was just a mistake.”
Feinstein said later she’d been contacted by both Obama and Biden.