Obama sees ‘good news’ as US hurtles toward fiscal cliff

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama told Iowa’s Des Moines Register newspaper that he’s eager to drive the nation straight toward the so-called “fiscal cliff” and work to resolve the county’s fiscal problems early next year.

“The good news is that there’s going to be a forcing mechanism to deal with what is the central ideological argument in Washington right now, and that is: How much government do we have and how do we pay for it?,” he told the newspaper during an interview released Oct. 23.

“When you combine the Bush tax cuts expiring [in January 2013], the [budget-cutting] sequester in place … we’re going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months [of 2013] we are going to solve that big piece of business,” he said, while asking for the paper’s endorsement in the 2012 race.

“It will probably be messy,” he said. “It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time … and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs.”

The paper’s endorsement may be important because Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney are neck-and-neck in the state, which has seven electoral votes.

“What the President shared with us this morning — and the manner, depth and quality of his presentation — would have been well-received by not only his base, but also undecideds,” editor Rick Green wrote Oct. 23, when asking Obama to reverse his initial demand that the interview be kept off-the-record.

The newspaper is widely expected to endorse Obama Oct. 27.

Obama was interviewed by Green and the newspaper’s publisher. It ended with one of the questioners wishing him luck. “Best of luck, Mr. President.”

The Obama campaign announced Oct. 24 that the interview could be made public.

Romney spoke to the newspaper Oct. 9, but his comments were panned by Green. “We had a wide-ranging conversation in a little under an hour of access. … [and] the audio was digitally recorded and posted on DesMoinesRegister.com,” Green wrote.

In his interview with Green and the newspaper’s publisher, Obama downplayed his contribution to the nation’s parlous situation, partly because the Register editors didn’t press him on government’s increased welfare spending, increased regulation and the federal government’s expanded control over the nation’s health care, education, energy and financial sectors.

“We can easily meet — ‘easily’ is the wrong word — we can credibly meet the target that the Bowles-Simpson Commission established of $4 trillion in deficit reduction,” Obama claimed.

However, that reputed “grand bargain” deal — which includes a large measure of new taxes — collapsed in 2011 when Obama suddenly asked GOP leaders to approve tax increases.

Obama’s demand for a tax raise came after month of negotiations that produced a painful deal.

Under various projections, most of the cuts included in Obama’s 10-year, $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan won’t take place until after 2020, and will still leave the national with an increased debt of roughly $9 trillion.

Under Obama, the federal debt has grown from just over $10 trillion to $16 trillion.

Obama also waived away other controversial policies of his that have boosted government spending.

Obamacare, joked Obama, won’t be “the scary monster that the other side has painted.”

“I’ve expressed a deep desire and taken executive action to weed out regulations that aren’t contributing to the health and public safety of our people,” he claimed, even though federal agencies are drafting many new regulations for release in early 2013.

For his second term, he promising a major effort for immigration reform — plus a government-pushed effort to make buildings more energy efficient.

“I think there’s still more work on the energy efficiency side that we can do — helping to retrofit our buildings, schools, hospitals, so that they’re energy efficient — because if we achieved efficiencies at the level of, let’s say, Japan, we could actually cut our power bill by about 20-25 percent, and that would have the added benefit of taking a whole bunch of carbon out of the atmosphere,” he told the newspaper’s publisher and editor.

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