That'll deliver on three campaign promises right there... but wait, let's not forget about health care:
Even before Congress approved the stimulus package earlier this month, this year's deficit was projected by Congressional budget analysts to approach $1.2 trillion, or 8.3 percent of the overall economy, the highest since World War II. With the stimulus and other expenses, some analysts say the annual gap between federal spending and income could approach $2 trillion when the fiscal year ends in September.
Obama proposes to dramatically reduce those numbers by the end of his first term, cutting the deficit he inherited in half, said administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the budget has yet to be released. His budget plan would keep the deficit hovering near $1 trillion in 2010 and 2011, but shows it dropping to $533 billion in 2013 -- still high in dollar terms, but a more manageable 3 percent of the overall economy.
To get there, Obama proposes to cut spending and raise taxes. The savings would come primarily from "winding down the war" in Iraq, a senior administration official said. The budget assumes that the nation will continue to spend money on "overseas military contingency operations" throughout Obama's presidency, the official said, but that number is significantly lower than the nearly $190 billion the nation budgeted for Iraq and Afghanistan last year.
Obama also seeks to increase tax collections, primarily by making good on his promise to eliminate the temporary tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 for wealthy taxpayers, whom Obama defined during the campaign as those earning more than $250,000 a year. Those tax breaks would be permitted to expire on schedule for the 2011 tax year, when the top tax rate would rise from 35 percent to more than 39 percent.
Obama also proposes to maintain the tax on estates worth more than $3.5 million, instead of letting it expire next year. And he proposes "a fairly aggressive effort on tax enforcement" that would target tax havens and corporate loopholes, among other provisions, the official said.
Overall, tax collections under the plan would rise from about 16 percent of the economy this year to 19 percent in 2013, while federal spending would drop from about 26 percent of the economy, another post-war high, to 22 percent.
As with the stimulus package, this show this is no small-thinking administration.
The budget also puts in place the building blocks of what administration officials say will be a broad restructuring of the U.S. health system, an effort aimed at covering some of the 46 million Americans who lack insurance while controlling costs and improving quality. Many lawmakers said they had expected a health care overhaul to be pushed off while Obama deals with the economic crisis, but administration officials stressed they intend to forge ahead with comprehensive reform...
Administration officials and outside experts say the most likely path to revamping the health system is to begin with Medicare, the federal program for retirees and people with disabilities, and Medicaid, which serves the poor. Together, the two programs cover about 100 million people at a cost of $561 billion in 2007. Making policy changes in those programs -- such as rewarding physicians who computerize their medical records or paying doctors for results rather than procedures--could improve care while generating long-term savings, expert say. It also could prod private insurers to follow suit.
Obama's budget request would create "running room for health reform," the official said, by reducing spending on some health programs so the administration would have money to devote to initiatives to expand coverage. The biggest target is bonus payments to insurance companies that run managed-care programs under Medicare, known as Medicare Advantage.
The Bush-era program has attracted nearly a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries to private health insurance plans that generally cover a package of services such as doctor visits, prescription drugs and eyeglasses. But the government pays the plans between 13 and 17 percent more than it pays for traditional fee-for-service coverage, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which advises Congress on Medicare financing issues. Democrats have long complained about the cost, and eliminating the extra payments would save about $35 billion over the next five years.
Administration officials also are debating whether to permit people as young as 55 to purchase coverage through Medicare. That age group is particularly vulnerable in today's weakened economy, as many have lost jobs or seen insurance premiums rise rapidly. The cost would depend on whether recipients were offered a discount or required to pay the full price of coverage.