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Spendthrift Obama will try to halve budget hole

UNITED States PresidentBarack Obama wants to cut the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term, mostly by scaling back Iraq war spending, raising taxes on the wealthiest and streamlining government, an administration official said on Saturday as the president worked to finalize his first budget request.

Obama's proposal for the 2010 fiscal year, which starts October 1, projects that the estimated US$1.3 trillion deficit he has inherited from George W. Bush will be halved to US$533 billion by 2013. That's a difference of 9.2 percent of the overall economy now versus 3 percent in four years.

"We can't generate sustained growth without getting our deficits under control," Obama said in his weekly address. He said his budget will be "sober in its assessments, honest in its accounting and lays out in detail my strategy for investing in what we need, cutting what we don't, and restoring fiscal discipline."

He's expected to outline some broad themes of his budget request today at a White House summit on fiscal policy and touch on it during his first speech to Congress tomorrow evening. He is slated to officially send at least a summary of it to Congress on Thursday, barely a week after his US$787 billion economic stimulus plan becoming law.

Obama's budget also is expected to take steps toward his campaign promises of establishing universal health care and lessening the country's reliance on foreign oil.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the president has not yet released his budget, said Obama hopes to achieve his deficit-reduction goal by generating savings as he follows through on three core campaign promises over the next four years.

Obama has pledged to wind down the Iraq war by withdrawing most combat troops within 16 months of taking office. He also has said he would let the temporary Bush tax cuts expire in 2011 for people making more than US$250,000 a year, effectively raising taxes on those people. And he has vowed to scale back spending and improve government efficiency by eliminating programs that don't work.


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