With a $787 billion stimulus package in hand, President Barack Obama will pivot quickly to address a budget deficit that could now approach $2 trillion this year.
He has scheduled a "fiscal-responsibility summit" on Feb. 23 and will unveil a budget blueprint three days later, crafted to put pressure on politicians to address the country's surging long-term debt crisis.
Speaking Friday to business leaders at the White House, the president defended the surge of spending in the stimulus plan, but he made sure to add: "It's important for us to think in the midterm and long term. And over that midterm and long term, we're going to have to have fiscal discipline. We are not going to be able to perpetually finance the levels of debt that the federal government is currently carrying."
Along those lines, White House budget director Peter R. Orszag has committed to instituting tougher budget-discipline rules -- once the economy turns around. Those include a mandate that any "nonemergency" spending increases be offset by equal spending cuts or tax increases.
Officials say the budget blueprint to be released this month will also attempt to make public the full extent of the dire fiscal situation, by not repeating some of the accounting used in crafting President George W. Bush's budgets.
Recent budget blueprints excluded from deficit projections the long-term costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those budgets also didn't include the cost of preventing the alternative minimum tax -- instituted in 1969 to ensure the rich didn't escape taxation -- from hitting the middle class.