Obama on the Record: News Conference on the Economy

Where the dispute comes in is what happens in a whole bunch of out-years. And the main difference between the budget that we presented and the budget that came out of Congressional Budget Office is assumptions about growth. They’re assuming a growth rate of 2.2 [percent]. We’re assuming a growth rate of 2.6 [percent]. Those small differences end up adding up to a lot of money. Our assumptions are perfectly consistent with what blue-chip forecasters out there are saying.

Now, none of us know exactly what’s going to happen six or eight or 10 years from now. Here’s what I do know: If we don’t tackle energy, if we don’t improve our education system, if we don’t drive down the costs of health care, if we’re not making serious investments in science and technology and our infrastructure, then we won’t grow 2.6 percent, we won’t grow 2.2 percent. We won’t grow.

And so what we’ve said is let’s make the investments that ensure that we meet our growth targets that put us on a pathway to growth, as opposed to a situation in which we’re not making those investments and we still have trillion-dollar deficits.

And there’s an interesting reason why some of these critics haven’t put out their own budget. We haven’t seen an alternative budget out of them. And the reason is because they know that in fact the biggest driver of long-term deficits are the huge health care costs that we’ve got out here that we’re going to have to tackle, and that if we don’t deal with some of the structural problems in our deficit, ones that were here long before I got here, then we’re going to continue to see some of the problems in those out-years.

And so, what we’re trying to emphasize is, let’s make sure that we’re making the investments that we need to grow, to meet those growth targets; at the same time we’re still reducing the deficit by a couple of trillion dollars; we are cutting out wasteful spending in areas like Medicare; we’re changing procurement practices when it comes to the Pentagon budget; we are looking at social service programs and education programs that don’t work, and eliminate them. And we will continue to go line by line through this budget, and where we find programs that don’t work we will eliminate them.

But it is — it is going to be a impossible task for us to balance our budget if we’re not taking on rising health care costs. And it’s going to be an impossible task to balance our budget, or even approximate it, if we are not boosting our growth rates. And that’s why our budget focuses on the investments we need to make that happen.

Q But even under your budget, as you said, over the next four or five years, you’re going to cut the deficit in half. Then after that, six years in a row, it goes up, up, up. If you’re making all these long-term structural cuts, why does it continue to go up in the out-years?

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