President Obama didn't just find religion on deficit reduction during the debt-ceiling debate. He claimed to be making it a priority after just one month in office. Upon signing the stimulus bill, the president in February 2009 vowed to cut the deficit in half by the end of his term.
But budget numbers released by the White House last week suggest he is not on track to meet that goal -- by a long shot.
The Obama administration in early 2009 called for bringing down the deficit to about $530 billion in four years.
The latest official budget review projected the deficit would hit $1.3 trillion this year and fall to $956 billion in fiscal 2012, which ends next September. Obama's first term wouldn't be up until January 2013, but the review still forecast a $648 billion deficit for the entirety of 2013.
Republicans were quick to point this out over the past few days, as they hammered Obama over the combination of a dismal jobs report released Friday and the latest deficit numbers.
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the review shows the president is "not on pace" to meet his pledge.
"Barack Obama promised to cut the deficit in half, and instead he turned around and he tripled it," Palin said.
The latest budget review actually represents a significant improvement over prior estimates, thanks in part to higher tax returns and the deal struck last month that cut spending while also increasing the debt ceiling.
The administration reported that the 2011 deficit, initially pegged at more than $1.6 trillion, would fall by 20 percent, to $1.3 trillion this year. The long-term projections count in part on a bipartisan supercommittee, established as part of the debt-ceiling package, finding about $1.5 trillion in deficit savings.
White House officials vowed to keep focused on fiscal discipline.
"The (review) underscores the need for further action to reduce our long-term deficit and jump-start economic growth," Budget Director Jack Lew said in a written statement. "Job creation is critical to this strategy, and it remains the president's top economic priority."
But the president's difficulty in reaching his $530 billion deficit goal will surely haunt him on the campaign trail.
The trouble stanching the red ink is due to many factors, not the least of which is a sputtering recovery. The review underscored this, projecting the economy would grow this year at a 1.7 percent rate -- one point less than estimated earlier this year.
Friday's labor report showed the economy added zero new net jobs in August, leaving the unemployment rate at 9.1 percent.
Obama's 2009 pledge also relied on plans to wind down the war in Iraq, cut back other spending and raise taxes on the wealthy. While he has withdrawn combat troops from Iraq, he also ordered tens of thousands more troops into Afghanistan. Obama was unable to persuade Republicans last year to roll back the Bush tax cuts for households making more than $250,000. And the effort to cut spending never really got off the ground until the debt-ceiling debate.
Going forward, the president faces the seemingly conflicting goals of spurring job creation and cutting the deficit further. Obama plans to deliver a major economic address to Congress Thursday, but the White House claims his jobs proposals will be paid for.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said last week that Obama will touch on fiscal issues in the speech, while presenting his own plan to the supercommittee "that's going to deal with further deficit and debt reduction."
Carney said "the commitment to present a detailed proposal on deficit reduction remains."