Obama Says 2012 Budget Will ‘Walk the Walk’ on Deficit Reduction

President Barack Obama said the $3.7 trillion 2012 budget that he sent to Congress today would cut scores of government programs to provide more funding for top priorities such as improving the U.S. education system.

“The only way we can make these investments in the future is if our government starts living within our means," Obama said, outlining key parts of the budget, his third since taking office, while visiting a school near Baltimore.

The budget reduces funding for programs he cares ‘‘deeply about,’’ Obama said, to meet his promise of cutting the deficit by half during his first term in office. ‘‘If we’re going to walk the walk when it comes to fiscal discipline, these kinds of cuts will be necessary."

The president spoke to students at Parkville Middle School and Center of Technology, flanked by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and White House Budget Director Jacob Lew. The school has a focus on science and technology education and uses ‘‘hands-on projects that leverage technology’’ in the classroom, according to a White House statement.

Obama said in his Jan. 25 State of the Union address that the U.S. faces a new ‘‘Sputnik moment’’ that demands investments in education and research to keep the nation economically competitive. He called for an expansion of his Race to the Top program, spending to prepare 100,000 new math and science teachers over the next decade, and a more flexible version of the No Child Left Behind law to be passed this year.

Living Within Means

Yesterday on CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union’’ program, Lew said ‘‘we have to start living within our means.’’

About two-thirds of the savings in Obama’s budget would come from a five-year spending freeze and cuts in domestic programs and an additional one-third would come from revenue increases, including limiting itemized tax deductions for the wealthy.

Some savings would be diverted to increased spending in education, research and development and technology to compete against global rivals, create jobs and reduce the 9 percent unemployment rate, Lew said in an interview yesterday.

Lew said that by 2015, the budget deficit would decline to about 3 percent of U.S. economy, from an estimate of about 9.8 percent this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Trimming the budget deficit to 3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product is a level most economists deem sustainable.

Political Center

The cuts reflect a White House shift toward the center of the political spectrum as Obama prepares for a 2012 re-election campaign, said Phillip Swagel, an economics professor at the University of Maryland and former assistant secretary for economic policy in President George W. Bush’s Treasury Department.

‘‘We’re broke,” Republican House Speaker John Boehner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday, rejecting Obama’s five-year freeze on domestic spending as inadequate. “Locking in that level of spending is way too much,” he said.

Boehner said he sent a letter to Obama yesterday, signed by 150 economists, calling for deeper spending cuts in the current fiscal year’s budget, still pending in Congress, that will “help create a better environment so we can begin to create jobs in our economy.”

Budget cuts, he said, “will bring more confidence to business people and investors.”

House Republicans disclosed plans on Feb. 11 to end more than 100 U.S. government programs in an effort to cut spending by $61 billion in the budget for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. Lew, on CNN, declined to say whether the White House would support that package.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said Obama’s proposed 2012 budget lacks spending discipline.

“That is not where we’re going,” the Wisconsin Republican said on the “Fox News Sunday” program yesterday. “We’re debating how much to cut spending, not how much to increase spending.”

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