Pummeled by ghastly economic news, President Obama called Monday for more spending and extended tax cuts that he said would help stimulate the economy — but these also could deepen the deficit problems that helped the federal government earn its first-ever debt downgrade last week.
The president made the proposals as world stock market indexes were tumbling, and his remarks seemed designed to help the White House regain its political footing by resetting the congressional agenda next month. Mr. Obama said he wants the 2 percent payroll-tax cut extended into next year, the creation of an infrastructure bank by Congress to promote construction, and enhanced unemployment benefits extended for another year.
“If Congress fails to extend the payroll-tax cut and the unemployment-insurance benefits that I’ve called for, it could mean 1 million fewer jobs and half a percent less growth,” the president said from the White House, as stocks were in the midst of deep losses that would register a nearly 635-point drop in the Dow Jones industrial average. “This is something we can do immediately, something we can do as soon as Congress gets back.”
Those items together, however, come with a price tag that exceeds $100 billion in 2012 alone, and which, unless they were coupled with offsetting cuts or tax increases elsewhere, would dwarf the $7 billion in 2012 savings that it took Congress four months to wrangle in last week’s debt deal.
The White House has not offered offsets and didn’t respond immediately to messages seeking comment on whether he wants his proposals to be deficit-neutral.