Obama 'Fiscal Responsibility' Summit Set for Monday
By Ceci Connolly and Lori Montgomery
President Obama and Vice President Biden plan to convene a White House "fiscal responsibility" summit Monday afternoon to launch a national conversation on how to put the nation on sounder financial footing.
The administration is still finalizing a guest list of more than 100 participants -- a mix of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, economists, policy specialists and special interest group representatives.
The three-hour, high-level gabfest, which will be open to press, begins in the State Dining Room with remarks by Obama and Biden. Participants will then be divided into five breakout sessions, before a wrap-up by the president.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and former Fed chairman Paul Volcker will lead the discussion on taxes. White House economic advisers Lawrence Summers and Christine Romer will go over Social Security. Budget director Peter Orszag, White House domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will handle health care.
CIA director (and former Clinton budget director) Leon Panetta will join budget deputy director Rob Nabors on budget reform and Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn will lead the session on contracting and procurement.
Obama is wrestling both short- and long-term economic challenges and the summit is his first attempt to display his seriousness about the rising deficit and debt.
Over the past 12 months, the government has pumped more than $2 trillion into initatives to ease the nation's economic crisis, pushing the federal budget deficit to close to $1.4 trillion this year. Trillion-dollar deficits are projected to persist throughout the coming decade, by some estimates, and the bills due for the economic recovery are forecast to run headlong into the skyrocketing costs of caring for the retiring baby boom generation.
"Societally, everybody's living for today and not taking steps to create a better tomorrow," said David Walker, former comptroller and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which advocates federal fiscal responsibility.
Prior to Inauguration Day, Obama announced plans for the summit in an interview with The Washington Post. Since then however, the administration has tried to tamp down expectations, saying only that the gathering is an opening gambit in a long process toward financial solvency.
Other presidents have made similar efforts to tackle major cost drivers, such as Social Security and Medicare, with limited success.
Former Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt, in an interview today, praised Obama for the early attention to long-term fiscal woes. But he predicted the difficulty comes in the follow-up, when policymakers will face tough choices and political realities.
"In a democracy, there's a need to collaboratively solve problems," he said. "To the degree this is a rallying point with a serious commitment to act, it is historically important. If it's just talk, then it's more of the same."
Web Politics Editor
February 20, 2009; 12:59 PM ET
Categories: B_Blog , Barack Obama , Economy
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