THE RACE: Deficits to be hot topic in 1st debate

As both presidential candidates dug in for debate preparations, a new budget year began Monday with little fanfare, resetting the federal deficit clock to once again begin its steep annual ascent.

The economy's painfully slow recovery and soaring deficits will be major topics in Denver at Wednesday's first presidential debate, to focus on domestic issues.

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney both have pledged to reduce deficits and shrink the national debt if elected. But neither has offered detailed plans to do either anytime soon.

Shortly after his inauguration in January 2009, Obama pledged to cut the budget deficit, then $1.3 trillion, in half by the end of his first term.

When fiscal 2012 ended at midnight Sunday, the outgoing 12-month yearly deficit was again $1.3 trillion _ the fourth consecutive year it has exceeded $1 trillion.

The deficits have helped push the national debt to a shade over $16 trillion, up from $10.7 trillion when Obama took office.

The White House predicts the deficit will fall below $1 trillion in this new budget year _ but not by much _ to $901 billion.

Obama has long since stopped talking up his old goal of reducing deficits in half. Now, he generally speaks of cutting them by a cumulative $4 trillion or so over the next 10 years.

Romney proposes capping federal spending at 20 percent of economic output, or gross domestic product, by the end of his first term. By contrast, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that Obama's programs would bring government spending to 22 percent of GDP.

Spending is now running around 23 percent of GDP.

Obama was working with his debate team at a Nevada resort. Romney was practicing in Massachusetts, then flying to Denver for an evening rally and more debate practice.


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