Deficit hawks: What Obama got right - and wrong asked 6 budget experts to size up the president's budget when it comes to reining in debt.

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Great first steps, but not enough
Great first steps, but not enough
Maya MacGuineas
President, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan group of leading budget experts

What the president got right: The administration's plan succeeds in making the deficit and the huge federal debt a political issue.

The president's budget also includes measures that are great first steps in tackling the debt, such as a three-year non-security discretionary spending freeze, a bipartisan fiscal commission created by executive order and a specific fiscal goal of balancing the budget, excluding interest payments on the debt by 2015.

What the president got wrong: It is admirable of the administration to set a fiscal goal, but its policies are not sufficient to come close to reaching it. Also, we worry more will be needed to reassure financial markets.

While a spending freeze affecting a small part of the budget is definitely a good idea, the [estimated] $250 billion in savings over 10 years is small compared to the $8.5 trillion in deficits over that period.

In a politically charged environment, a commission is a great idea. However, the administration must have a "Plan B" in case the commission does not succeed. The administration cannot pin all of its hopes on a commission.

[Lastly] promises of new tax cuts, extensions of current tax cuts and new spending programs before adopting a debt reduction plan simply are not productive. The administration must take the lead on preparing the country for the types of tough choices that will be needed.

NEXT: Commission good start, but needs better target

Last updated February 04 2010: 10:44 AM ET
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