U.S. President Barack Obama is vowing to slash America's budget deficit, even as his administration spends hundreds of billions of dollars to stimulate the economy. Mr. Obama brought lawmakers and experts to the White House on Monday to search for ways to cut costs, increase federal revenues and move toward a balanced budget.
Less than one week after signing the biggest spending bill in U.S. history, President Obama vowed to bring the federal budget deficit under control.
"I am pledging to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office," he said.
The deficit now stands at a record $1.3 trillion. Mr. Obama said the nation will not be back on sound economic footing until it is addressed.
"If we confront this crisis without also confronting the deficits that help cause it, we risk sinking into another crisis down the road as our interest payments rise, our obligations come due, confidence in our economy erodes, and our children and grandchildren are unable to pursue their dreams because they are saddled with our debts," he said.
The president said it will not be easy and that difficult choices lie ahead. He said his administration is going through the federal budget, line by line, weighing the worth of each individual program.
"We will replicate these efforts throughout the federal government, eliminating programs that don't work, to make room for those that do," he said. "And making the ones we keep work better."
Mr. Obama told the White House-organized Summit on Fiscal Responsibility that for far too long, accounting tricks have been used to hide the true size of the deficit. He said that too must change.
"If we want to rebuild our economy and restore discipline and honesty to our budget, we will need to change the way we do business in Washington," he said. "We are not going to be able to fall back in the same old habit and make the old mistakes."
Earlier, Mr. Obama made the case for government accountability in remarks to the nation's governors.
He said that when it comes to implementing the $787 billion economic stimulus package that he signed last week, it is critical that the money be spent wisely.
"We are addressing the greatest economic crisis we have seen in decades by investing unprecedented amounts of the American peoples' hard earned money," he said. "With that comes an unprecedented obligation to do so wisely, free from politics and personal agendas."
President Obama told a meeting with U.S. governors at the White House that the first installment of stimulus money - $15 billion to help pay for health care for the needy - will be on its way to states on Wednesday.
Overall, Democrats strongly support the plan. But Republican governors are more divided, with some governors refusing to take part of the money set aside for their states.
Vermont's Jim Douglas, speaking for his fellow Republican governors at the meeting, held out the hope that all sides could come together as the stimulus plan enters the implementation phase.
"It is not a partisan issue to get America moving again," he said. "Both Republicans and Democrats have lost their jobs all across this country and we have to work together to put them back to work."
The president will talk about his economic goals on Tuesday night in a nationally broadcast speech before a joint session of Congress. On Thursday, he will unveil his federal budget for the next fiscal year that begins in October.