Americans mixed on Obama budget and fret over deficit

PHOENIX Fri Feb 27, 2009 6:35pm GMT

U.S. President Barack Obama makes an announcement on his meeting with the ranking members of the Senate Banking and the House Financial Services Committee at the White House in Washington, February 25, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

U.S. President Barack Obama makes an announcement on his meeting with the ranking members of the Senate Banking and the House Financial Services Committee at the White House in Washington, February 25, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - Many Americans applauded the spending plans and tax breaks set out in President Barack Obama's record budget, while others questioned the yawning deficit it would entail.

"I like Obama, so I am willing to be cautiously optimistic," David Bell, 62, an attorney in San Francisco, said of the $3.55 trillion (2.5 trillion pound) spending plan that Obama hopes will stop the economic slide in its tracks, create jobs and lay the foundations for new growth.

"If anyone has a shot at creating a budget that will be good (with) good priorities, he's got the best chance."

Obama said on Thursday the budget is a "first step" towards creating or saving millions of jobs and laying the foundations for growth, amid the worst economic recession in decades.

The spending plan also seeks to enact a bold agenda to upgrade schools, expand healthcare coverage next year, while cutting taxes paid by Americans on lower and middle incomes.

"It'll be nice to have a few dollars! But I'm probably going to be spending it on maintaining the lifestyle I had five years ago," said Carole Brazsky, 65, a retired social worker in Scottsdale, Arizona, whose savings have been pinched by the downturn and soaring healthcare costs.

But others said they were unhappy at the huge spending set out in the proposal, which foresees a whopping $1.75 trillion deficit for the 2009 fiscal year.

"Eventually everything is going to have to be paid back ... Let everything bottom out as low as it can go and work its way back from there," said Martin Prior, 40, an electrician from California, who called the budget a "disaster."

In suburban Fort Worth, Texas, retired civil servant Terry Wagner felt tax savings passed on to workers would just be clawed back by cash-strapped state and municipal authorities struggling to bridge their own deficits.

"The extra few dollars ... will be eaten up local governments who will have to raise taxes to make up for their own shortfalls," he said.

TAKING FROM THE RICH

The budget was attacked by Republicans in the U.S. Congress unhappy about its unprecedented spending increases, and its shift towards raising taxes on wealthier Americans in a bid to narrow the gaping deficit.

Wealthier professionals earning more than $250,000 dollars will have to pay higher taxes under the plan.

"I am so upset with his proposal," said Mark McNiel, 50, a telecommunications sales executive from Prairie Village, Kansas, who earns over $350,000 a year.

"You can not spend and tax your way into economic growth," he added.

The spending plan also seeks to curb or phase out the subsidies paid to the largest farmers in the United States -- a measure that did not sit will with some.

"I don't like it," said Belton, Missouri farmer Tom Effertz of the proposed cuts in direct payments. Effertz said he and his three brothers receive only about $40,000 to share for the 12,000 acres (4,856 hectares) of corn, soybeans and wheat they farm together.

The amount is negligible in comparison to the high costs of production.

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