Commentary: Obama's measured approach to deficit reduction

The federal government has been on a mind-boggling borrowing binge, racking up a debt that is a threat to America's prosperity. So President Barack Obama's televised speech on the budget deficit and federal debt was crucial to addressing the issues.

He outlined a plan to lower federal deficits by $4 trillion over the next 12 years through tax increases on the super-wealthy and the elimination of tax loopholes and deductions for individuals and corporations, as well as targeted cuts in defense spending and reductions in health-care benefits.

The president was attacked from both sides of the political spectrum even before he spoke. Republican congressional leaders bashed Obama for even broaching tax hikes. Liberal groups castigated him for daring to touch entitlements.

Is it any wonder that so little headway has been made on reducing the deficit, allowing the debt to balloon past $14 trillion?

The carping does create space, however, for Obama to reach for middle ground -- a measured approach that will pare the deficit over time, but won't hurt the most vulnerable in our society and won't stall the economic recovery.

As Obama pointed out, we're all at fault here. We like the federal programs that benefit us -- it's always the others that should be cut -- and we don't want to pay higher taxes. Obama isn't blameless, either. He has dug himself a deeper hole with his own budgets, though he argued that "emergency" spending was necessary to avert another economic depression.

The president's blueprint draws from his bipartisan deficit reduction panel that issued its report in December. Like that plan, Obama would get three-fourths of the deficit reduction through spending cuts (including lower interest payments on the shrinking debt) and one quarter from additional tax revenue.

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