President Barack Obama said he would follow through on a pledge to rein in soaring U.S. budget deficits and said that would involve presenting Americans with "some very difficult choices" next year.
Obama also said that he believed a review of the "messy and unfair" U.S. tax code should be considered as part of a plan to deal with long-term budget problems.
"I'm serious about it," Obama said when asked at a news conference at the Group of 20 summit in Canada if he believed he could meet his deficit reduction goals.
The G-20 summit was dominated by a debate among the G-20 leaders about how quickly to shift from a focus on economic stimulus toward deficit reduction.
The United States has warned against withdrawing stimulus too quickly, saying the world economy remains fragile but U.S. officials have also said it is important to keep in mind the need for fiscal prudence.
Obama has proposed freezing spending on an array of domestic programs for the next three years and has named a special commission to recommend ways to curb spiraling debt and deficits. The panel is to report back by Dec. 1. Obama will review the recommendations and decide how to go forward sometime early next year.
"I'm doing it because I said I was going to do it," Obama said. "People should learn that lesson about me, because next year, when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country, I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficits and debt step up, because I'm calling their bluff."
Amid the worst recession since the Great Depression, the U.S. budget deficit hit $1.4 trillion last year. It is projected to come in at about $1.6 trillion this year.
Obama has said the deficits are a legacy of the Bush administration, but Republicans have tried to cast Obama as a big spender and have attacked last year's $862 economic stimulus package.
Republicans hope to use the issue to put Obama's Democrats on the defensive ahead of the November congressional elections.
Despite the political wrangling over deficits, Obama said he has been hearing both from Democrats and Republicans that "there's been a serious conversation" about budget deficits and the need to address them.
Obama said structural budget problems were looming as the aging of the U.S. population pushes up spending for health and retirement programs.
"Even if we had not gone through this financial crisis, we'd still have to be dealing with these long-term deficit problems," Obama said.
He listed the tax code as another structural problem.
"We've got to look at a tax system that is messy and unfair in a whole range of ways," Obama said.
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