Speaking with ABC News correspondent George Stephanopoulos thisweek, Pres. Obama downplayed concerns of an impending financialcatastrophe, claiming quite to the contrary that the country is ontrack to turning the economy around.”We don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt,”Pres. Obama told Mr. Stephanopoulos during an interview that airedWednesday on the television program Good MorningAmerica.”In fact,” added the president, “for the next 10years, it’s gonna be in a sustainable place.”Others aren’t so sure.Pres. Obama’s claim is indeed an optimistic one, but is it allthat accurate? For starters, the Congressional Budget Office admitsthat, yes, the deficit may be slightly less in the coming monthsthan what we’ve seen throughout the Obama administration so far,but in ten years’ time things aren’t likely to shape up all thatwonderfully. The CBO projects a deficit of $845 billion — afantastic figure when compared with the deficits exceeding $1trillion that have occurred since Pres. Obama took office — but thesize of that sum won’t be shrinking for long. The CBO expects thedeficit to take an upward turn again as soon as 2015, with a totalof $7 trillion expected to be added to the national debt during thenext decade.Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the two economists behind theNational Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, orBowles-Simpson Act, say that recent disagreements between partiesin Washington suggest Democrats and Republicans will be unlikely toiron out a deal this year that will help diminish the debt.Although Pres. Obama seems optimistic about the economic future —even when accounting for rampant bipartisan bickering — othersaren’t so sure.”They haven’t done any of the tough stuff, any of theimportant stuff,” Bowles told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl lastmonth. “They haven’t reformed the tax code…they haven’t doneanything to slow the rate of health care, to the rate of growth ofthe economy, they haven’t made Social Security sustainably solvent.There’s about $2.4 trillion more of hard work we’ve gottado.”Pres. Obama told Mr. Stephanopoulos that that’s a good start,though, and said this week’s that it’s “important to recognizeis that we’ve already cut $2.5- $2.7 trillion out of thedeficit.””If the sequester stays in, you’ve got over $3.5 trillion ofdeficit reduction already,” added the president.The president’s statement is one that assumes the best — thatthe sequester budget cuts will continue as scheduled and theeconomy will turn itself around in only a matter of a few years.Republicans and Democrats will get along during further financialdebates and a national emergency won’t empty out America’s bankaccount. Adding to ABC, Alan Simpson isn’t sure things will work out asthe president plans.”Ten thousand [Americans] a day are turning 65,” he toldthe network. “This is madness. And life expectancy is 78.1, andin five years will be 80. Who is kidding who? This will eat a holethrough America.”As more Americans reach an age where government-paidentitlements kick in, welfare programs will increasingly dry outwhat’s left of the country’s checkbooks. Republicans by-and-largewant to see yet more cuts to social welfare programs, but that’ssomething that the president says his allies are unlikely to agreewith.“Ultimately, it may be that the differences are just toowide,” Mr. Obama told Stephanopoulos this week. “It may bethat, ideologically, if their position is, ‘We can’t do anyrevenue,’ or, ‘We can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gutSocial Security or gut Medicaid,’ if that’s the position, thenwe’re probably not going to be able to get a deal.”And what happens then? “That won’t … create acrisis,” the president told ABC. ”It just means that we willhave missed an opportunity. I think that opportunity is thereand I’m going to make sure that they know that I’m prepared to workwith them. But, ultimately, it may be better if someDemocratic and Republican Senators work together.”Should both sides of the aisle come together to reach anagreement regarding spending plans, Pres. Obama’s prophecy of asustainable economy in ten years’ time may very well come true. Inorder for that to happen, though, long-time opponents will have toput differences aside and agree on a package that Democrats andRepublicans alike will favor. If history is any precedent, such anoutcome is all too unlikely.“How likely is that?” senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeifferasks the New York Times. “I can’t say very likely — there arestrong structural forces in the Republican Party working againstit. But if you try and fail you still have an opportunity to buildbonds of trust that could be helpful on other issues.”Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), the one-time vice presidentialcandidate and current chairman of the House Budget Committee, sayshis Republican Party is working on a federal spending plan thatcould save the country $5 trillion during the next decade, but indoing so the president will have to forfeit his hallmark healthcare law, something all but certain to fail. For now, though, Rep.Ryan says he is open to negotiations.“I think there are things that we can do that don’t offendeither party’s philosophy,” Rep. Ryan told Fox News over theweekend.Meanwhile, even White House press secretary Jay Carney isn’t asoptimistic as his boss. During a media briefing on Wednesday, Mr.Carney admitted that “everybody” recognizes there is a”long-term debt challenge.” The president, however, justwon’t call it a crisis.
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