Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Driver’s seat

The day the Congressional Budget Office forecast that the United States is headed for its fourth straight year with a $1 trillion-plus budget deficit, President Obama touted the benefits of big government spending.

His venue? The Washington auto show. His tools? Shiny new American cars, preferably those from General Motors and Chrysler. Those were the two companies that received billions in a 2009 taxpayer funded bailout that has obviously paid off, both for the automakers and the Obama administration.

The president got behind the wheels of muscle cars, SUVs, trucks, and fuel efficient and electric models and proclaimed “The U.S. auto industry is back.” But he couldn’t just leave it at that, for there were more political points to score. He did so by taking a veiled swipe at his most likely opponent in the November election – Mitt Romney – for having opposed the bailout that helped bring Detroit back from the brink.

“It’s good to remember the fact that there were some folks who were willing to let this industry die,” Obama said.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

U.S. set for 4th year of $1 trillion-plus deficit-CBO

The United States is headed for a fourth straight year with a $1 trillion-plus budget deficit, congressional forecasters said, giving Republicans ammunition to hammer President Obama’s spending record. The CBO report is the opening salvo in the 2012 debate over the appropriate size of the federal government in coming years and whether the wealthy should shoulder more of the burden in fixing a fiscal mess highlighted by a national debt that has topped $15 trillion and is racing higher.

Obama vs Ryan: how the deficit plans compare

A combination photo shows House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) taking a question at a news conference held to unveil the House Republican budget blueprint in the Capitol in Washington April 5, 2011 and President Barack Obama delivering a speech on U.S. fiscal and budgetary deficit policy at the George Washington University in Washington, April 13, 2011.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Barack Obama set a goal of reducing the U.S. deficit by $4 trillion within 12 years or less, in a speech outlining his plan to tackle the country’s massive debt problem. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has laid out a dramatically different vision of a future debt-free America. Here’s a snapshot of how they compare. Add your views in the comments.

DEFICIT REDUCTION
Obama believes a goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 12 years or less is achievable, and projects that it will reduce deficits as a share of the U.S. economy to about 2.5 percent of GDP in 2015, and put deficits on a path toward close to 2.0 percent of GDP toward the end of the decade.

Ryan’s 2012 budget reduces deficits over the next decade by $4.4 trillion, calls for $5.8 trillion in spending cuts and also calls for lower tax rates for businesses and individuals.

A beautiful budget? It’s in the eye of the beholder

Budget beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder.

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions took a look at President Barack Obama’s bloated, spend-your-way-out-of-USA-BUDGET/a-recession blueprint for 2012, with its $1.65 trillion deficit, and declared himself appalled.

“The president has presented the most irresponsible budget in the history of this republic,” he said.

Sessions made the remark while strongly endorsing the leaner 2012 spending plan proposed Tuesday by Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee.

What would Gingrich do?

RTR2JLFO_Comp-150x150President Obama may be in hot water with lawmakers who think the U.S.-led military mission in Libya is a big mistake. But some GOP voices are calling for an escalation of U.S. involvement — or at least an expansion of U.S. goals.

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination, tells NBC’s Today show that the United States will face defeat in Libya if the current mission ends with Muammar Gaddafi still in power.

People might have a hard time arguing with that point.

But what would he do now, if he were president?

Gingrich’s answer sounds just like the message John McCain conveyed on the same TV show a day earlier, when LIBYA-REBELS/GADDAFIhe called for arming the Libyan rebels to ensure the end of Gaddafi’s 41-year rule.

Washington Extra – Cake cutting

Everyone SAYS they want to cut the budget deficit, but when it comes to actually agreeing on a course of action, it’s not exactly a piece of cake.  GERMANY/

President Barack Obama says his budget plan would halve the deficit by 2013. “So what we’ve done here is make a down payment, but there’s going to be more work that needs to be done, and it’s going to require Democrats and Republicans coming together to make it happen,” he said.

But Democrats and Republicans are far from seeing eye-to-eye on how to go about deficit cutting.

Washington Extra – Line dance

Here’s something that Republicans might want to hear: the White House is promising that its budget will include serious deficit control.

EGYPT-USA/“The budget will show a very serious path of deficit reduction,” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew said in an interview with Reuters’ White House correspondents Alister Bull and Jeff Mason.

While the budget will make “tough choices and tough cuts,” Lew said, “there will also be the question of how far do you want to go in some of these areas and what are the consequences of going beyond a certain line.”

Peterson Foundation launches OweNo campaign on U.S. debt

While the ads are humorous, the subject is serious.

Fictional presidential candidate Hugh Jidette (pronounced huge debt) will soon be making a pitch for more U.S. debt held by foreign countries in television ads that willCALIFORNIA-PROTESTS/ be appearing across the country.

The tongue-in-cheek spots are actually trying to drive home to the American public the consequences of failing to tackle huge debt increases facing the United States if lawmakers fail to balance the annual budget and continue to run deficits.

The nation’s debt now stands at $13.7 trillion and will hit the statutory credit limit of $14.3 trillion in the spring. At that point Congress must vote to raise the credit limit to keep the country from going into default.

Social Security and milking cows

An email by deficit commission co-chair Alan Simpson saying the Social Security retirement program has reached a point “where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits” is prompting calls for his resignation.

Ashley Carson, executive director of OWL which calls itself the voice of midlife and older women, said the email sent to her by Simpson was “insulting.” Other comments about “greedy geezers” by the former Republican senator fail to recognize that many older women rely on less than $12,000 a year in Social Security benefits, she said.ECONOMY/JOBS

“We’re demanding for Mr. Simpson to step down as co-chair,” Carson said, adding that if he won’t go voluntarily, then President Barack Obama, who created the commission, should ask him to leave.

Gingrich chides Obama for acting like a teenager with credit card

Extending unemployment benefits is this week’s battleground for Democrats versus Republicans. USA/NRA

Democrats look set to push the legislation through the Senate with the help of newcomer Carte Goodwin of West Virginia. They hope to show voters in an election year that they are the party responding to the plight of the unemployed.

Republicans had blocked the measure, demanding cuts elsewhere to pay for the $34 billion price tag and prevent it from adding to the U.S. budget deficit. They want to show voters that they are the party of fiscal restraint.

Simpson: Fix the deficit or your grandkids will pick grit with the chickens

Newly minted Republican deficit commissioner Alan Simpson has a message for Americans: if you don’t want your grandkids picking grit with the chickens, better ignore soundbite politics and get lawmakers to find real solutions to the deficit.

President Barack Obama Thursday named Simpson, a former Wyoming senator, and Erskine Bowles, the head of the University of North Carolina, to lead a bipartisan panel searching for ways to cut the deficit.

OBAMA/Obama called Simpson “a flinty Wyoming truth-teller.”

The former lawmaker quickly embarked on some truth-telling.

Appearing with Bowles on “PBS NewsHour,” Simpson was asked about Republicans who believed that tax cuts were needed now, even if they raised the deficit in the short term.