COMMENTS: The Promise of Future Fiscal Responsibility

Was the top story fiscal or financial? President Barack Obama convened a showpiece event at the White House to promise that his two-year deficit spending of $787bn was not permanent policy and that the annual federal deficit could be cut to a mere $533bn by 2013. He called the gathering his Fiscal Responsibility Summit and CBS selected it for its lead. ABC and NBC both kicked off from Wall Street where the fate of Citigroup hangs in the balance. Its latest offer to the federal government is a 40% taxpayer ownership stake as a way to repay $45bn in bailout funds. The Dow Jones Industrial Average sold off to 7114, meaning that it has registered a capital gain of zero since the spring of 1997. The fiscal summit turned out to be the Story of the Day.

The President's promise of an improvement in the deficit depends on reversing two of George Bush's policies--restoring a higher tax rate for rich people and scaling back military costs in Iraq--and "relies on estimates that the economy will improve down the road," NBC's Savannah Guthrie pointed out. Obama ended the day by taking questions from his guests. NBC's Guthrie likened it to Question Time in the House of Commons in London as "political friends and foes rose;" ABC's Jake Tapper heard echoes of the University of Chicago as the "former law professor opened the summit to a freewheeling discussion."

Gov Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana Republican, was in attendance. Last week CBS' Bill Whitaker publicized Jindal's hardline Republican bona fides by identifying him as one of a trio of GOP governors who were so ideologically opposed to deficit spending as a method of boosting demand in the economy that he might refuse to accept fiscal stimulus funds for his state. Now Whitaker's colleague Chip Reid gave us the specifics. Jindal's quibble is only with $100m out of a total of $4bn. The other $3.9bn he is happy to accept.


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