WASHINGTON - The United States is making progress in enhancing its fiscal sustainability in the past years as a result of government spending cuts and more government revenue, President Barack Obama said here on Monday.
The United States is moving toward the goal of reducing 4 trillion US dollars in government deficit over a decade, Obama said at a White House press conference, the last of his first term.
Obama urged the US Congress to raise the nation's debt ceiling to avert a government default, stressing that the country cannot afford another debate on whether it should pay its bills.
Raising the nation's debt ceiling does not authorize more government spending, but simply allows the nation to cover the bills it has accrued, Obama said.
The US federal government reached its debt limit of 16.4 trillion dollars on December 31, 2012, and the Treasury Department was taking extraordinary measures to temporarily postpone the date of a possible default.
The government is expected to run out of ways to meet all of its obligations around late February or early March. Congress Republicans have demanded steep spending cuts in exchange for a debt ceiling increase.
The US economy is poised for a good year if Washington politics don't get in the way, Obama added.
A congressional refusal to raise the debt ceiling would be a "self-inflicted wound" on the US economy, delay payments of benefits to social security recipients, and could possibly tip the country into recession, Obama warned.
Even a threat of defaulting on government obligations is affecting investor confidence and hurting the economy, and threatening to not raise the debt ceiling is "absurd," Obama stated.
The president stressed that the United States should adopt a balanced deficit reduction approach to ensure key investments to bolster economic growth and protect the interests of the middle class.
"I'm happy to have a conversation about how we reduce our deficits in a sensible way," he said. But he warned that Republican lawmakers should not use a government default or shutdown as the bargaining chip to demand government spending cuts.