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Obama Calls Together Budget Deficit Reduction Commission

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President Barack Obama Tuesday convened the first meeting of a bipartisan commission aimed at coming up with solutions for the nation's rising budget deficit and debt.

Speaking in the Rose Garden flanked by Alan Simpson, the Republican co-chairman of the commission, and Erskine Bowles, the Democratic co-chairman, Obama laid much of the blame for the nation's debt and deficits on policies enacted before he had taken office.

The recession is resulting in lower tax intake by the government, Obama said, and rising health costs are causing the government to spend more on Medicare and Medicaid.

"But what also made these large deficits possible was that, for years, folks in Washington deferred politically difficult decisions and avoided telling hard truths about the nature of the problem," he said. "The fact is, it's always easier, when you're in public life, to share the good news, to tell people [what] they want to hear instead of what they need to know."

And while the government is taking some steps already, restoring pay as you go budgeting and seeking to eradicate waste in government spending, Obama said more needs to be done to address the long-term structural deficits.

"Even as we rein in waste and ask that Congress account for every dollar it spends, this alone will not make up for the years in which those in Washington refused to make hard choices and live within their means," he said. "And it will not make up for the chronic failure to level with the American people about the cost of the services that they value."

He added, "This is going to require people of both parties to come together and take a hard look at the growing gap between what the government spends and what the government raises in revenue. And it will require that we put politics aside, that we think more about the next generation than the next election."

Obama said that the commission must be free to consider any and all options for reducing the federal deficit, but he cautioned against reading too much into quotes or comments about what might or might not be included in the commission's recommendations.

"It's important that we not restrict the review or the recommendations that this commission comes up with in any way. Everything has to be on the table," he said. "I'm not going to say what's in. I'm not going to say what's out. I want this commission to be free to do its work."

Fiscal responsibility often garners broad bipartisan support in theory, Obama noted, but that theoretical support can often evaporate in efforts to bring it about in practice.

"It falls prey to special interest pressures, to the pull of local concerns, and to the reality familiar to every single American -- it's a lot easier to spend a dollar than to save one," he said. "That's what, at root, led to these exploding deficits."

He added, "A lot of the decisions in terms of getting our budget under control may not be popular, but I think the reason that Alan and Erskine agreed to take on this assignment is that they were convinced I was serious about it. And I'm going to be standing with them as they come up with the recommendations."

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