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Administration to Tea Parties: We're on Your Side

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FILE - In this March 8, 2010 file photo, Tea Party member Greg Hernandez, of Quicksburg, Va., wearing a tri-corner hat and tea bag, listens to speakers during a rally at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber/file) (AP2010)

Tea Partiers, the Obama administration is on your side. 

That's been the message from the White House over the past few days, as top officials dispute charges that Washington is on a spending binge and encourage conservative protesters to count their blessings. 

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, when asked about the Tea Party protests, said in an interview Sunday that the Obama administration is paying more attention to deficit and spending concerns than the Bush administration did. 

"We've just been through eight years where many people said deficits don't matter. We can pass huge tax cuts, pass huge new programs without paying for them. That debate has changed fundamentally," Geithner said on NBC's "Meet the Press." 

"You don't hear people say anymore deficits don't matter. You don't hear people saying we can pass enormous expansions in government without paying for it. That's an important change." 

And President Obama said at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser Thursday that Tea Party activists should "be saying thank you" to him for the tax cuts passed by his administration. 

The change in tone comes as surveys show distrust in the government is rising to historic levels. A Pew Research Center survey released on Monday found almost 80 percent of Americans say they don't trust Washington. 

Dana Perino, former White House press secretary under the Bush administration and a Fox News contributor, said that the Obama administration is wise to try to appeal to the Tea Partiers. But she said the claim that Obama is tackling the deficit is off base. 

"He's right, in one sense, to finally stop degrading people who affiliate with the Tea Party movement. But if his policies meshed up with his rhetoric, it would probably be a stronger sell point," Perino said. 

Obama has established a bipartisan commission to study ways to bring down the national debt and rein in deficits. But his spending has far outpaced that of his predecessor. 

President Bush ran up a $458.6 billion deficit during his last full year in office. Obama ran up a $1.4 trillion deficit in fiscal 2009 -- that covered part of Bush's final year, but budget projections show deficits will continue to top $1 trillion for several years under Obama.

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