Fiscal Responsibility Summit Remarks

if we confront this crisis without also confronting the deficits that helped 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 our grandchildren are unable to pursue their dreams because they’re saddled with our debts.

And that’s why today I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office. This will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we’ve long neglected. But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay — and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control.

We’ll start by being honest with ourselves about the magnitude of our deficits. For too long, our budget process in Washington has been an exercise in deception — a series of accounting tricks to hide the extent of our spending and the shortfalls in our revenue and hope that the American people won’t notice: budgeting certain expenditures for just one year, when we know we’ll incur them every year for five or 10; budgeting zero dollars for the Iraq war — zero — for future years, even when we knew the war would continue; budgeting no money for natural disasters, as if we would ever go 12 months without a single flood, fire, hurricane or earthquake.

We do ourselves no favors by hiding the truth about what we spend. In order to address our fiscal crisis, we’re going to have to be candid about its scope. And that’s why the budget I will introduce later this week will look ahead 10 years, and will include a full and honest accounting of the money we plan to spend and the deficits we will likely incur.

To start reducing these deficits, I’ve committed to going through our budget line by line to root out waste and inefficiency — a process that Peter and our administration, our team, has already begun. And I’ll soon be instructing each member of my Cabinet to go through every item in their budgets, as well. And already we’ve seen how much money we can save, just in the last 30 days.

Take one example — the Department of Agriculture has moved some of its training programs online, saving an estimated $1.3 million a year. They’re modernizing their financial management system, saving an estimated $17.5 million. They’re saving tens of thousands of dollars by cutting back on conferences and travel and other small expenses that add up over time.

So we will replicate these efforts throughout the federal government, eliminating programs that don’t work to make room for ones that do — and making the ones that we keep work better. We’ll end the payments to agribusiness that don’t need them and eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq. We’ll end the tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas and we’ll stop the fraud and abuse in our Medicare

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