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US Budget Deficit Expected to Hit Record


The Bush administration says the ballooning U.S. federal budget deficit will rise even higher next year, shattering the record set four years ago. From the White House, VOA's Michael Bowman reports.

In a report to Congress, the Bush administration says federal expenditures will exceed revenues by $389 billion this year, and by a record-high $482 billion in fiscal year 2009. The figures do not take into account the full costs of U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Office of Management and Budget Director Jim Nussle says a slowing economy combined with the costs of an economic stimulus package, are the main culprits for the current spike in the deficit.

"Earlier this year, the president and Congress, on a bipartisan basis, correctly agreed that action was needed for our economy, and made a deliberate and conscious decision to temporarily increase the deficit in order to get money into the people's hands, and spur consumption," he said.

Despite the staggeringly high deficit numbers, the administration points out that, as a percentage of gross domestic product, the federal deficit will be smaller next year than it was in 2004, when the deficit topped $400 billion.

Nevertheless, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says President Bush is determined to enforce greater fiscal discipline while pursuing a pro-growth economic strategy.

"President Bush has tried to hold the line across the board when it comes to this Congress trying to raise taxes on the American people or raise spending unnecessarily," she said. "He has not been afraid to veto bills."

Perino added that defense and security costs since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States have placed enormous financial burdens on the country, but that those expenditures are vital and appropriate.

When President Bush entered office, the United States enjoyed a fiscal surplus of $128 billion. The president's critics note that Mr. Bush is the first president in U.S. history to cut taxes during a time of war.

House Budget Committee Chairman Democratic Representative John Spratt is quoted as deriding President Bush's "dismal legacy" in fiscal matters, converting record surpluses into record deficits.

The administration projects the United States will avert a recession, recording sluggish growth of 1.6 percent this year. The administration says it expects the deficit will fall sharply after 2009, keeping the country on-target for Mr. Bush's goal of a balanced budget by 2012.