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Debt Projections Worsen; Administration Promises Action

The Obama administration is promising to tighten its belt in the 2011 budget after new projections show a deficit $2 trillion larger than originally estimated over the next decade. Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said the worsening projections are due largely to a deeper-than-expected recession and higher interest costs.“It underscores the dire fiscal situation that we inherited and the need for serious steps to put our nation back on a sustainable fiscal path,— Orszag said. Cutting health care costs in the long run, which he said is a central part of the administration’s health care reform plans, is a key to shrinking the deficit, Orszag said. But additional actions will also be necessary and will be included in the fiscal 2011 budget next year, he said. The administration also said the president is committed to addressing the long-term shortfall in Social Security as well.Republicans jumped on the news as a sign that spending — which the Congressional Budget Office projects will rise 24 percent this year even as revenues plunge 17 percent — has grown too much.Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested canceling some of the spending in the $787 billion federal stimulus package as well as “reforming entitlements.—And House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Democrats have spent with “reckless abandon.—Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, said Democrats should ditch their health care plan and start over on a bipartisan bill.“If the House Democrats’ unaffordable $1 trillion health care bill wasn’t dead before, it should be now,— he said. House Democrats contended that their health bill would bring down costs in the long term and wouldn’t add to the deficit, although the CBO said before the bill was amended in committee that it would increase the deficit by $239 billion to prevent a cut in doctors’ payments.The Democrats don’t want to count that red ink, blaming Republicans who repeatedly adopted short-term fixes for the doctor issue each year.There were some bright spots amid the gloomy numbers. The expected deficit for this fiscal year has shrunk to about $1.6 trillion in both the administration and CBO forecasts, down from more than $1.8 trillion earlier. That’s in large part because federal bailouts, such as the controversial Troubled Asset Relief Program, are expected to cost less than projected. But it’s still by far the largest deficit in American history.The CBO showed similar long-term figures to the OMB, although its longer-term deficit is smaller because CBO analysts assume that all of the Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of 2010, while the Obama administration assumes that many of those tax cuts, as well as tax breaks for the alternative minimum tax, will continue.

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