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In switch, Obama emphasizes belt-tightening

Once the economy starts growing again, he wants to cut programs that have 'outlived their usefulness.'

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President-elect Obama wants America to know he is not just about spending money.

Once the economy starts growing again – his first priority – he will get out the knife and start to cut programs that have "outlived their usefulness." In short, he wants to also be known as a budget reformer.

In a press conference Tuesday, Mr. Obama characterized trimming federal programs as "not an option; it's a necessity." He promised that Peter Orszag, whom he has picked to run the Office of Management and Budget, will go through the $2.9 trillion US budget line by line, page by page, looking for better and less expensive ways to do things.

Obama's focus on belt-tightening followed his press conference Monday, in which he talked about his desire for a new economic stimulus package that could add anywhere from $500 billion to $700 billion to the deficit. He plans on spending for infrastructure programs, alternative-energy programs, and lower- to middle-income tax cuts. He says his goal is to create 2.5 million jobs over several years.

If Obama is successful at reinvigorating the flagging economy, he will have the political capital to make budget cuts, says Stanley Collender, a budget expert at Qorvis Communications in Washington.

"He's saying we'll pay attention to the deficit when we can, and until then, we're focused on the economy," he says.

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