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Obama unveils $4 trillion budget

AFP , Monday 2 Feb 2015
Views: 892
Views: 892

President Barack Obama has put forward a $4 trillion budget loaded with spending and tax reforms that will likely be dead on arrival at the Republican-controlled Congress.

Using a healthier economy to turn away from years of austerity-first policies, Obama's plan includes sizable spending on infrastructure, research and the military, according to details released Monday.

Senior officials said the plan would "put the good of middle-class families and our economy front and center, while also continuing progress on restoring fiscal discipline."

"You don't have to choose between those two things," one official said. "You can in fact accomplish both."

The plan would see the deficit remain under three percent of gross domestic product -- a level economists commonly view as sustainable.

"The deficit in 2016 will be $474 billion or 2.5 percent of GDP," a senior administration official said, adding that debt would be 75 percent of GDP.

Full details of the budget will be released later Monday.

Obama will give a speech at the Department of Homeland Security -- an agency currently the subject of a budget fight with Republicans and a sign that the president plans to take a combative approach.

Republicans are likely to balk in particular at the increase in non-military spending and the closing of popular tax loopholes.

Around $478 billion would be spent on America's creaking infrastructure, a one third increase.

It would be paid for in part by a one-time 14 percent tax on the estimated $2 trillion of untaxed earnings held by US firms overseas.

For new foreign earnings, "the reformed system would close loopholes that allow US companies to shift profits to tax havens and avoid paying tax on them for years or forever," said a White House official.

Republicans who control the House of Representatives and the Senate are likely to portray both measures as an anti-business tax hike.

Obama's advisors acknowledge that his broader budget plan has little chance of passing in its current form.

"Our hope is that by laying out a clear economic vision centered around the middle class and economic growth, that we will be able to have a productive conversation," a senior official said.

Obama's 2016 budget assumes the world's largest economy will grow at about 3.1 percent this calendar year, with unemployment at 5.4 percent and inflation of 1.4 percent.

The budget will also include spending to "counter Russian aggression in eastern Europe," according to a senior administration official.

Some of the cash would go toward strengthening security in countries "most targeted by Russian pressure."

There would also be funding to help defeat the Islamic State group, around $1 billion to boost governance in Central America -- the starting point for many migrants arriving in the United States -- and $14 billion to support cybersecurity.

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