US deficit to be focus of tonight's State of the Union address; Iran opposition leaders back Ahmadinejad; France to ban veils when 'using publlic services'; Dalai Lama envoys in China for Tibet talks; and more
Top of the Agenda: Obama Addresses Deficit
US President Barack Obama proposed (WSJ) a three-year freeze on $447 billion in federal spending, an attempt to rein in the country's $1.4 billion deficit and emerge from the global downturn. The plan--expected to be a major part of the State of the Union address and Obama's budget proposal--would propose limits on discretionary spending outside military, veterans, homeland security, international affairs, and entitlement programs. The freeze would apply to 17 percent of the total federal budget, which some consider minor compared to other areas of spending.
Administration officials acknowledged the freeze only applies to only a small part of overall spending, but it eliminates the 7.3 percent increase Obama requested last year in the areas he now seeks to freeze. Obama also plans to propose a deficit commission to seek solutions for longer-term spending. The White House said it will continue to push its 2009 goals but that Congress might scale back its healthcare legislation after Democrats lost their sixty-vote super-majority.
Perceptions of reckless government spending have cost (NYT) Obama support among independent voters. Many economists feel the national debt undermines the country's longer-term prosperity, putting upward pressure on the interest rates it pays to borrow from countries like China.
In the Washington Post, Dana Milbank says partisan wrangling is undermining efforts to tackle the debt, and that the independent debt commission is expected to be voted down in Congress.
In Newsweek, Eleanor Clift says Obama needs to reassure his base in the State of the Union address by asserting more economic populism and a stronger vision, reasserting his differences, and standing his ground with Republicans.
PACIFIC RIM: Tibet-China Talks
Envoys of the Dalai Lama arrived in China to resume talks (AFP) on the political status of Tibet.
China: Five pro-democracy legislators in Hong Kong resigned (BBC) in an effort to pressure the Chinese government for full direct elections by 2012.