News / USA

Obama, Geithner Optimistic About Deficit Cuts

President Barack Obama rolls up his sleeves during a town hall meeting to discuss reducing the national debt at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va., April 19, 2011
President Barack Obama rolls up his sleeves during a town hall meeting to discuss reducing the national debt at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va., April 19, 2011


Kent Klein

President Barack Obama and his treasury secretary are trying to reassure global markets that Democrats and Republicans can agree on a way to cut the long-term U.S. budget deficit. Their ability to do so could affect the government’s credit rating.

President Obama says worries that bickering between Democrats and Republicans will prevent an agreement on a deficit reduction plan are exaggerated.

"Our conflicts and our disagreements tend to get more attention than our agreements," said the president. "The easiest way to be on TV is to call somebody a name. If you say something mean about somebody, that will get you on TV.  If you say something nice about somebody, you figure, ‘Well, that is boring, I am not interested.’"

The president spoke Tuesday at a community college near Washington.  

One day earlier, the Standard and Poor’s credit rating agency warned that the U.S. government could lose its top credit rating during the next two years if progress is not made on slashing the federal budget deficit.

S&P officials are concerned that a continued refusal by both parties to compromise could lead to failure to reduce the U.S. deficit, which is projected at $1.5 trillion this year.

Mr. Obama and Congressional Republicans agree that about $4 trillion must be cut from the deficit during the next 10 to 12 years. But the president says both sides need to give ground on where to cut.

"It is pretty rare when Washington says, ‘This is a problem, everybody agrees on that, and everybody agrees on about how much we need to do to solve the problem.' The big question that is going to have to be resolved is, ‘How do we do it?’" Obama asked.

One reason for optimism, Mr. Obama says, is the work of the so-called "Gang of Six" - a bipartisan group of senators working for a budget compromise.  

The president says their efforts led to the recent budget agreement for the remainder of this fiscal year.

"We had a good start a few weeks ago, when both parties came together around a compromise that cut spending, but also kept the government open and kept vital investments in things that we care about," the president added.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has also been giving interviews in hopes of calming fears about a budget deadlock. He told Bloomberg News that the eventual agreement will send a positive message to world markets.

"I would be reasonably confident now that we have a chance to lock in what we agree on," Geithner said. "And what we agree on is the importance of putting in place strong targets for savings, for deficit reduction, over a specific time frame with enforceable limits. Because what you want people around the world to know is that Washington is going to back to living within its means."

Vice President Joe Biden will host a meeting with bipartisan congressional leaders on May 5, to start work on a long-term deficit reduction plan.

Economic concerns have pushed down President Obama’s approval ratings. The latest public opinion poll, conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post newspaper, shows that 47 percent of Americans surveyed think the president is doing a good job, while 50 percent say he is not.

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