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Obama vows to get US budget into shape

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-26

Despite stimulus promises amounting to many billions of dollars, President-elect Barack Obama has promised to streamline government spending and clear the budget deficit - in the long term at least.

President-elect Barack Obama Tuesday vowed to erase red ink and wasteful spending from the deficit-ridden US budget even while promising to do what it takes to revive stalled growth in the short run.
Obama acknowledged that his plans to inject billions of dollars in stimulus spending would drive the deficit still higher, but stressed the long-term benefits of investment in crumbling US infrastructure and health care systems.
Appointing Peter Orszag to head the White House Office of Management and Budget, he said the 39-year-old graduate of Princeton and the London School of Economics would ensure no "mountain of debt" is left for future generations.
Orszag, who is now the director of the Congressional Budget Office, "doesn't need a map to tell him where the bodies are buried in the federal budget," the president-elect told his second news conference in as many days.
Obama, who takes office on January 20, said he was not trampling on President George W. Bush's authority but insisted the economic emergency demanded that he present a clear sense of direction for the years ahead.
"We will go through our federal budget -- page by page, line by line -- eliminating those programs we don't need, and insisting that those that we do need operate in a sensible and cost-effective way," he said.
Obama also named Rob Nabors to serve as Orszag's deputy. Nabors is currently staff director of the powerful appropriations committee in the House of Representatives, and Obama said the pair were "outstanding public servants."
The appointments fleshed out Obama's economic team a day after he nominated New York central banker Timothy Geithner to be his Treasury secretary and named ex-Treasury chief Larry Summers as his top economic adviser.
Both Summers and Geithner cut their political teeth as senior members of president Bill Clinton's economic team, whose hallmark was deficit reduction.
The US government closed its books on the 2008 fiscal year September 30 with a record deficit of 455 billion dollars, and many analysts say the current fiscal year will end with a whopping gap of one trillion dollars.
Obama said his immediate plans to create 2.5 million jobs through an infrastructure spending spree required a heavy outlay -- reportedly as much as 700 billion dollars.
He pledged anew to cut taxes for 95 percent of working Americans, and has left himself some wiggle room on whether he will extend Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy after 2010.
"But as soon as the recovery is well under way, then we've got to set up a long-term plan to reduce the structural deficit and make sure that we're not leaving a mountain of debt for the next generation," he said.
Further economic appointments are expected soon, possibly at a follow-up press conference on Wednesday.
Those could include Obama's pick for commerce secretary, with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson reportedly in line for the job of promoting domestic industry, and perhaps Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell as energy secretary.
Obama is meanwhile expected next week to fill out his national security posts and select a secretary of state -- with former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton hotly tipped to serve as diplomat-in-chief.
Susan Rice, an Obama campaign advisor and a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, has emerged as the leading candidate to be nominated US ambassador to the United Nations, ABC News reported.
Unusually for a president-elect, Obama is publicizing his own economic agenda well in advance of taking office in a bid to reassure jittery investors around the world.
While Bush has been at pains to keep Obama abreast of developments, most recently over a bailout for stricken banking giant Citigroup, the Democrat reaffirmed that "there is only one president at a time."
But given the current "extraordinary circumstances," Obama said the public had to know "that we are putting together a first-class team and for them to have clarity that we don't intend to stumble into the next administration.
"We are going to hit the ground running."

Date created : 2008-11-25