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Obama $3.55 trillion budget focuses on foundations, reviving economy
With the $3.55 trillion budget outline unveiled Thursday, President Barack Obama finally showed where he's prepared to spend his political capital and what the battle lines will be in the months ahead.
It was the political equivalent of an "all in" moment in a high-stakes poker game.
And he laid down controversial markers on almost every major issue facing the country, saying that only bold action now could end the current economic crisis and set the United States on the path to long-term prosperity.
"The time has come to usher in a new era-a new era of responsibility in which we act not only to save and create new jobs, but also to lay a new foundation of growth upon which we can renew the promise of America," Obama wrote in the preface. "This budget is a first step in that journey."
The fiscal 2010 budget will rack up a $1.17 trillion deficit, following an estimated $1.75 trillion deficit for 2009-a shortfall Obama described as unfortunate but necessary in the short term to jump-start the economy.
"We inherited these twin trillion-dollar deficits," budget director Peter Orszag said, noting that two stimulus packages aimed at the ongoing economic crisis were big contributors to the flood of red ink.
But even as Obama and his aides suggested the administration's predecessors were responsible for the immediate crisis, the budget reflected the president's basic view that the immediate and long-term needs of the country must be dealt with together by tackling basic problems.
"You know, there are times where you can afford to redecorate your house, and there are times where you need to focus on rebuilding its foundation," Obama said in the budget document. "Today we have to focus on foundations."
Among those likely to oppose his plans: large agribusiness, drug companies, and oil and gas companies.
"We will each and every one of us have to compromise on certain things we care about but which we simply cannot afford right now. That's a sacrifice we're going to have to make," Obama said as he issued the outline.
"What I won't do is sacrifice investments that will make America stronger, more competitive and more prosperous in the 21st century, investments that have been neglected for too long."
Republicans expressed dismay at the size of the budget commitments, even as they acknowledged they bear some blame for the problems Obama is trying to fix.
"There has been too much spending under Republicans over the last couple years," said House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner, R- Ohio.
"Republicans will not be the party of no, and we will continue to work with the president when we can," Boehner said. "Where we must oppose him, I think it's our obligation to be the party of better solutions, and we will have alternatives out there in those areas where we do disagree."
The Defense Department comes out roughly even in Obama's budget proposal. On one hand, the new president reduces war spending and holds the base Pentagon budget to a 4 percent increase.
More than a quarter of the $634 billion "reserve" fund the president wants to create to help finance his health care reform agenda would come from insurance companies who could see smaller premiums for providing Medicare services to senior citizens.
Under the proposed budget, the Pell Grant program, the largest direct aid program for low-income college students, would receive annual infusions of cash, tied to inflation for the first time since the program's inception.