Get used to this word – ‘trillion’

Published 9:46 pm Tuesday, March 3, 2009

President Barack Obama’s new budget, unprecedented in size, scope and borrowed money, takes the government’s finances into uncharted realms. Someone who never ran an enterprise larger than his Senate office staff is asking Congress and the American people to trust his financial savvy.

He proposes spending $3.5 trillion in fiscal 2010, which begins next Oct. 1. As huge as that amount is, it’s not quite as large as the nearly $4 trillion we’re going to spend in the current fiscal year, thanks to the federal stimulus and bailout money.

This year’s federal budget deficit is already headed toward regions unknown — $1.75 trillion, nearly four times last year’s deficit, and previous record holder, of $455 billion. The budget foresees deficits around $1 trillion next fiscal year and the year after. Then, Obama promises to cut the red ink in half to $581 billion in 2012 and $533 billion in 2013. …

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President George W. Bush too promised to halve the deficit before his term was up. Maybe Obama will have better luck. To get to that point, Obama is counting on a 10-year plan to trim $2 trillion in spending by eliminating waste, a hardy budget perennial that never seems to materialize, and cutting programs like farm subsidies.

Most dramatically, his budget includes a $634 billion “down payment” to make good on his pledge to extend health care coverage to the estimated 47 million who don’t have it. Half of that will come from raising taxes on Americans jointly earning over $250,000 by letting a Bush tax cut expire and by trimming their deductions for charitable giving and mortgage interest. And all of this is contained in just a 134-page outline. The full package is not scheduled to arrive on Capitol Hill until mid-April.

Congress shouldn’t wait. The lawmakers have a lot of work ahead of them.

— The Knoxville News Sentinel