Geithner: Entitlement Programs Key to Cutting Deficit

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner defended the president’s budget proposal as a means of restoring fiscal responsibility to an economy riddled by a mounting national deficit.

“Our deficits are too high.  They are unsustainable, and left unaddressed, these deficits will hurt economic growth and make us weaker as a nation,” Geithner said.  “We have to restore fiscal responsibility and go back to living within our means.”

Geithner targeted entitlement programs as the key to reducing the national debt while insisting that Social Security benefits remain protected. 

“Our long-term deficits that we face over the next century are primarily driven by rapid rates of growth in healthcare costs and to a lesser extent by Social Security obligations.  The most important thing we can do to reduce those long-term costs is to reduce the rate of growth in healthcare costs.”

But committee members pounced on the president’s budget proposal for not providing enough guidance in curbing entitlement programs.

“Americans shouldn’t have to wait any longer for some real solutions, and frankly, this budget is a missed opportunity,” Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said. “There‘s nothing on entitlement reform, and there’s little more than lip service about getting the deficit under control.”

Geithner acknowledged that balancing the budget will involve some difficult choices on the part of lawmakers and “will require sacrifice from all Americans.”

Geithner took a brief moment to tout the success of TARP, which was initially projected to cost taxpayers $350 billion but is anticipated to show a positive return for taxpayers.

“I think it will prove to be the most successful financial rescue in modern history,” Geithner said.  “Even recognizing, we face a lot of challenges ahead in digging out of this crisis, repairing the damage caused by it.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


So Be It? Pelosi Rips Boehner’s Dismissal of Potential Job Loss

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On the House floor Tuesday afternoon, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi seized on Speaker John Boehner’s “so be it” remarks in response to a question about potential job loss related to the Republicans’ plan to cut $100 billion from the continuing resolution.

Pelosi went after Boehner for the apparent gaffe and said that House Republicans “have not presented a responsible plan for addressing the deficit.”

“Just today, Speaker Boehner said that if jobs are lost as a result of Republican spending cuts, ‘So be it.’  So be it?” Pelosi, D-Calif., asked incredulously. “Democrats do not subscribe to Speaker Boehner’s verdict that if jobs are lost in this Continuing Resolution, ‘So be it.’  Maybe ‘So be it’ for him.  But not ‘So be it’ for the people who are losing their jobs.  Instead, we support President Obama’s budget to ‘out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.’”

Earlier Tuesday, Boehner brushed aside a question about potential job losses resulting from the GOP’s $100 billion cuts, telling reporters that the expansion of the federal government over the past two years under Democratic rule has been an impetus for excessive federal spending and if some of those jobs are eliminated by the GOP’s cuts, then “so be it.”

“Over the last two years since President Obama has taken office, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs and if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it. We’re broke!” Boehner, R-Ohio, exclaimed. “It’s time for us to get serious about how we’re spending the nation’s money.”

Boehner then warned that by not acting to cut spending and reform entitlements, the country’s future is threatened.

Pelosi said that the budget “should be a statement of our national values” and criticized Republicans for proposing cuts to programs like education, public safety and veterans’ benefits.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama Tackles Criticism of His 2012 Budget

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama defended his 2012 budget proposal Tuesday amidst criticism from Republicans that it does too little to rein in the burgeoning U.S. deficit and costly entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

"You cut back on what you can afford, focus on what you can't do without. That's what we've done with this year's budget," the president said in his first news conference of the year.

"By the middle of this decade, annual spending will match annual revenues. We won't be adding to the national debt," he said when asked about the GOP criticism. "We're not going to be running up the credit card anymore."

Touting his plan, Obama urged the kind of bipartisanship that was achieved late last year in extending tax cuts for Americans.

Republicans panned the president's 2012 budget proposal unveiled Monday, with House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., dubbing it "debt on arrival."

Republicans have specifically objected to plans to end subsidies for oil and gas firms, impose higher taxes on multinational corporations and to reduce tax deductions for higher-income groups. Others say the budget doesn't tackle the issue of the $14 trillion debt.

While Democrats were less vocal in their objections, many are against the deep cuts the White House is proposing in community grants and the home heating assistance program, both of which help lower-income groups.

Obama's 10-year budget plan would increase the national debt by $7.2 trillion in 10 years; $1.1 trillion less than if it wasn't implemented.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Budget Gives IRS a Big Boost

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Student loans take a hit.  So does the program that helps the poor pay for home heating oil.  But not the Internal Revenue Service.

President Obama’s budget has winners and losers, and one of the clear winners is the IRS.

Under the president’s budget plan for 2012, the IRS’s budget is getting a boost of $1.1 billion -- an increase of nearly 10 percent.

The budget summary released by the White House explains that the extra money will help the IRS “improve service to taxpayers” and “make interactions with the IRS more smooth and effective.”

A press release from the Treasury Department explains that the money will help the IRS become more responsive, in part, by improving those toll-free help lines.

“Because new tax cuts aimed at helping taxpayers and stimulating the economy over the last few years have increased the volume of calls to toll-free service lines at the IRS,” the release says, “Treasury’s Budget request includes increased funding to improve service on IRS toll-free service lines.”

The Treasury Department says the funding will also improve enforcement, helping the IRS chase down tax cheats and, in the process, end up saving taxpayers $1.3 billion by the year 2014.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Boehner 'Irritated' By President's Budget Proposal

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Speaker of the House John Boehner said Tuesday he is irritated by President Obama’s new budget proposal, telling reporters the president’s plan would damage the country’s efforts to create jobs. He also criticized the president for failing to lead on a solution to the country’s entitlement predicament.

“It’s pretty clear that [the president’s budget] spends too much, borrows too much and taxes too much, but the most irritating part to me…is that this will continue to hurt job creation in America,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

Boehner said House Republicans are offering serious ideas to cut spending, beginning with H.R. 1, a spending bill coming to the House floor Tuesday that Boehner says would cut $100 billion by the end of September.

Boehner also brushed aside any concern over potential job losses resulting from the GOP’s $100 billion cuts, citing the expansion of the federal government over the past two years under Democratic rule.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called out House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for failing “to even begin to offer a coherent vision forward.”

Cantor says House Republicans will make reforms and further cuts in their FY 2012 budget, which is expected to be completed by early April.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sheriff Joe Arpaio, 'America's Toughest,' for Senate?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, the man who calls himself "America's toughest sheriff," says he is considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2012 and has the money and votes to be competitive.

"The issue is whether I want to leave this office and go to Washington and try to make a difference there, which I would do if I run and win," Arpaio, 78, said in an interview with The Hill.

Arpaio, first elected Maricopa County sheriff in 1992, is a popular figure among conservatives around the country for his tough approach to crime and punishment, including housing prisoners in tents, issuing them pink underwear, and putting them to work on chain gangs.

He's also known for leading aggressive sweeps to round up and jail illegal immigrants.

A poll released Monday puts Arpaio on top of a list of possible GOP candidates to replace Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, who announced last week that he will not seek reelection.

Several other prominent state Republicans are believed to be considering bids for Kyl's seat, including U.S. Reps. Jeff Flake and Ben Quayle, former Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth, and state Rep. Trent Franks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rep. Paul Ryan: Keep the Government Open? Only at Reduced Levels

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan put the White House on notice Tuesday, as money to keep the government open runs out in a few weeks on March 4.

“We obviously don’t want to see a shutdown occur,” he told ABC News.  “But at the same time, we don’t want to rubber stamp these extremely high and elevated spending levels.”

Ryan conceded the Senate is unlikely to act on the cuts the House hopes to pass this week before the March 4 deadline.  “That means we are going to have to negotiate some short term extensions while we get to the long term fix,” he said.
And he knows that Tea Party budget hawks in his own conference won’t go along with the levels passed by Congress during December’s lame-duck session.

So what will the deal be?  The bidding’s just beginning, and administration officials concede cuts may be necessary, too.  But no one’s ready to put a public number out there yet, and no one knows what the coalition to prevent a government shutdown will look like.

Ryan also criticized the president’s budget proposal for not cutting enough and promised the GOP’s proposal will actually reduce the nation's deficit more than the White House’s plan.

“Of course we will…the president punted on the budget.  Look I am very disappointed, I was actually hoping for some sincere presidential leadership.  The biggest threat to our country and our economy is our debt,” he said.

ABC News asked Ryan how he intends to propose a budget that includes even more cuts considering Republicans have ruled out tax increases, meaning they will have to come up with another $1.6 trillion in savings just to break even with the president’s plan.

He answered, “You have to do entitlement reform if you are serious about this budget, if you are serious about this debt.  And the point I keep making about entitlement reform, the sooner we tackle it the better off everybody is.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Marc Grossman Chosen as New US Envoy to Afghanistan, Pakistan

Photo Courtesy - Ermal Meta/AFP/ Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made her pick on who will be the new U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, a senior State Department official confirmed to ABC News Monday.

Clinton is expected to announce later this week that retired diplomat Marc Grossman has been chosen for the position.  Prior to his selection, Grossman served as assistant secretary of state for Europe and ambassador to Turkey.  He last held the position of undersecretary for political affairs before retiring in 2005.

Grossman will replace Richard Holbrooke, who died last December.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


House GOP Budget Puts NPR, PBS on Chopping Block

Photo Courtesy - Frederick M. Brown/ Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As the House prepares for debate on the budget Tuesday, Republicans are trying to cut off public funding for NPR and the Public Broadcasting Service, which run such iconic programs as Sesame Street and Morning Edition.

The House Republicans' budget would rescind any funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- which funds these two organizations -- for the remainder of the year, and zero out millions in funds after that.

This is not the first attempt by Congress to cut funding for what many Republicans see as liberal-leaning broadcast operations.

House Republicans made a proposal in November to strip federal funding for NPR after the radio station fired controversial commentator Juan Williams for comments he made about Muslims.

That bill didn't pass, but this time, Republicans are in the majority in the House, and many say the cuts are needed to balance the burgeoning U.S. deficit.

If funding indeed gets put on the chopping block, it could have a detrimental impact on PBS and NPR affiliates, many of which are already struggling financially.

PBS president and chief executive Paula Kerger, pointing to the network's educational programming, said, "It's America's children who will feel the greatest loss, especially those who can't attend preschool."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Clinton to Promote 'Freedom to Connect' in Internet Freedom Speech

Photo Courtesy - Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be at George Washington University on Tuesday to deliver what’s billed as a major address on Internet freedom, promoting what she calls the “freedom to connect.”

Clinton's address will follow a similar speech last year, and comes just days after Egypt, Iran and other countries in that region have tried to manipulate Internet access to quell uprisings.

A top aide to Clinton says she will “reaffirm U.S. support for a free and open Internet and underscore the importance of safeguarding both liberty and security, transparency and confidentiality, and freedom of expression and tolerance.”

According to excerpts made available from her remarks, Clinton will defend an open Internet.

"We are convinced that an open Internet fosters long-term peace, progress and prosperity.  The reverse is also true.  An Internet that is closed and fractured, where different governments can block activity or change the rules on a whim -- where speech is censored or punished, and privacy does not exist -- that is an Internet that can cut off opportunities for peace and progress and discourage innovation and entrepreneurship,” she will say.

“History has shown us that repression often sows the seeds for revolution down the road.  Those who clamp down on Internet freedom may be able to hold back the full impact of their people’s yearnings for a while, but not forever… Leaders worldwide have a choice to make.  They can let the Internet in their countries flourish, and take the risk that the freedoms it enables will lead to a greater demand for political rights.  Or they can constrict the Internet, choke the freedoms it naturally sustains -- and risk losing all the economic and social benefits that come from a networked society,” Secretary Clinton will declare.

Clinton will also reference the important role the Internet has played in recent Mideast uprisings.

“There is a debate underway in some circles about whether the Internet is a force for liberation or repression.  But as the events in Iran, Egypt and elsewhere have shown, that debate is largely beside the point.  The Internet isn’t good or bad.  It is both.  It is neither.  What matters is what people who go online do there, and what principles should guide us as we come together in cyberspace.  That question becomes more urgent every day,” she plans to say.

Secretary Clinton will also proclaim the “freedom to connect,” saying “the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online comprise what I have called the freedom to connect.  The United States supports this freedom for people everywhere, and we have called on other nations to do the same.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio