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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Jim Nussle
Director, Office of Management and Budget

February 6, 2008

Jim Nussle
Good afternoon! Thank you for joining us.

On Monday, for the first time the President submitted his Budget to Congress electronically. It is posted at We at OMB are excited to lead this effort for a few reasons: 1) it allows us to utilize technology to provide information in a user-friendly, fast and public way; 2) if others follow our lead, this step will result in conserving 20 tons of paper—saving over 480 trees; and 3) we finally have a clean desk. The President's FY09 Budget focuses on our nation's highest priorities: addressing immediate economic challenges, ensuring sustained prosperity and keeping America safe, while holding the line on spending and balancing the budget by 2012. With that I look forward to your questions!

Fred, from Irvine, CA writes:
Hi, Director Nussle:Thank you for your service. When I look at the President's budget actions, I feel depressed. Depressed because when the President took over, there was a $160 billion surplus. A tax cut that was supposed to use only 13 of that, used up more, and a recession made it a huge deficit.

We were told by you and others the budget would be in balance by 2009. Now, it seems our leaders are always telling us budget balance is around the corner. Now, you have moved the marker to 2012. Should we believe you?


Jim Nussle
Actually, last year, the President proposed a budget that would reach balance by 2012. The marker is the same – and we’re continuing to take steps that will help achieve this important goal of balance by 2012. Continued economic growth is the most critical element in reducing the deficit, getting back to balance and addressing our long-term challenges. Both Republicans and Democrats have joined together and rightly decided that preventing a slowdown in the economy is a top priority, even though this $145 billion growth package will result in an up tick in the deficit for the next couple of years. However, this up tick in the deficit can be temporary and manageable. We can balance the budget by 2012, provided we keep taxes low, accelerate economic growth, and keep spending in check.

Rusty, from North Carolina writes:
Is it true that with the new budget proposal for 2009 funding for the Carl D. Perkins Act, which funds most Career and Technical Education programs, will be eliminated? And if so, how will these valuable career-based programs operate in the future with little to no funding?

Jim Nussle
Yes. The Budget proposes terminating 47 Department of Education programs because they are duplicative of other programs, narrowly focused, or unable to demonstrate effectiveness. The Budget would redirect the $3.2 billion saved from terminating these programs to provide increases for priority education programs that have a demonstrated record of success or that hold promise for improving student achievement and increasing accountability.

The goals of the Career and Technical Education grants could be better accomplished through the high school reforms proposed by the Administration for No Child Left Behind. These reforms, in addition to the Budget's $406 million increase for Title I, will help improve academic achievement and graduation rates for at-risk high school students - many of whom are CTE students.

The 2009 Budget would also boost funding for community colleges through the Pell Grants, and reform the Department of Labor's four major job training grants to create Career Advancement Accounts so that individuals can use the money to obtain training and related services. The Budget invests more than $13 billion in training and employment programs government-wide.

Leah, from Texas writes:
Is the stimulus all you are doing right now to help boost the marketing economy?

Jim Nussle
Bipartisan negotiations with the House of Representatives have produced an economic growth package that is designed to work quickly and effectively. It includes tax relief for consumers in the form of rebates, and incentives for businesses to expand. Furthermore, we have promoted policies to help ease the turmoil in the housing market, including housing counseling for those who are at risk of losing their home to foreclosure.

John, from Texas writes:
Why are some items considered "off-budget"? I could see why if it was just a one-time expense not anticipated that year, like a natural disaster or an international police action, but otherwise isn't it deceitful? Is the Iraq War on the budget yet?

Jim Nussle
Yes. All of the funding for the Iraq War, responses to tragedies like the tornado that hit the South overnight are considered emergencies. However, the war spending is calculated into the deficit projections. Because of the unpredictability of disasters we budget some money for the unexpected, but we supplement it as needed to respond to rescue and recovery.

Helen, from Ohio writes:
A lot of money is going to be given to the help Middle east and Latin America, but there were some specific things these money is supposed to be for, this special things were disscused between the nations, or are we going to give the money to things WE think are the most important for these nations right now?

Jim Nussle
In support of our efforts to bring peace in the Middle East, the Budget provides funding for the parties in the region including assistance to the Palestinians, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. These funds would ensure that our assistance programs to support the Middle East peace process are not put at risk. The same is true for our assistance to Latin America. We work with these countries to ensure that our assistance supports stability and economic growth in the region which is in the interest of the United States.

Joshua, from St Louis, MO writes:
I sell health insurance in Missouri and Illinois. I was wondering if you could explain how the budget would allow self-employed individuals and retirees more $$$ to pay for health care needs.Thanks

Jim Nussle
The President’s Budget proposals would reform the overall health care marketplace to promote efficiency, transparency, portability, quality, and affordability. The President proposes changing the tax treatment of health insurance to level the playing field for those who don’t get health care through their employer, improving health savings accounts to expand their use, creating association health plans that allow small employers and civic and community groups to band together to leverage their bargaining power, and reforming the medical malpractice system.

Jonathan, from New Rochelle, New York writes:
Will the Increase spending in the budget derail the scheduled budget surplus by 2012?

Jim Nussle
We continue to make significant investments in national security. It is a clear federal responsibility and the President takes his role as Commander-in-Chief very seriously. Furthermore, America must first be safe and free in order for its people to be prosperous. To keep spending in check we hold non-security discretionary funding to less than one percent next year and flat through 2012. No doubt it will be a challenge to balance the budget. Just as the President has done in his Budget, Congress will need to set priorities and fund programs and projects that are 1) a federal responsibility and 2) are achieving results for the taxpayers.

Jeff, from Los Encinos, CA writes:
Mr. Nussle- Thank you for your distinguished service to this fine nation. How can the federal budget proposals be reigned in without cutting spending on essential social programmes or raising taxes? I am a firm believer in "small government", but how can we cut the red tape while preserving essential programmes?

Jim Nussle
In this Budget we propose to terminate or reduce 151 programs totaling $18 billion in FY09 alone. Next week we will release a volume with justifications for each program. The reality is that good intentions alone do not justify a program that isn’t working or is a service or program best provided by state or local government. But we must get back to basics, and challenge the status quo. We base our recommendations for terminations and reductions, in part, on an objective tool for rating programs. To see what Federal programs are working and which ones aren’t, please see our public website: . At this site, we catalog more than 97 percent of all federal programs, which have been evaluated so you can see how your hard-earned taxpayer dollars are being spent.

Alysia, from originally from Pittsburgh writes:
Where is the budget, in plain, simple, black and white numbers? Everywhere I click is some commentary, or explanation, or chart, or pie graph, or some type of "near-propoganda". Why is it so hard to make a document for simple, common people, who have less than 14 spare hours on their hands go to find this material? Please help a desperate citizen.

Jim Nussle
You can view the budget on The fact sheets on the front page provide details by agency. If you want to drive deep into the meat of the budget, there is an appendix that provides specific details on every program. Here is the direct link: /omb/budget/fy2009/appendix.html .

Virginia, from Portland, Oregon writes:
The projected cash-based deficit for 2009 is $407 billion. Where can I find the projection for the accrual-based deficit that will ultimately appear in the financial reports?

Jim Nussle
The Consolidated Federal report of the U.S. Government is issued each December. It is on the front page of our website and also can be found at:

This report and our budget are complementary documents. The budget is prospective, forward-looking. The financial reports are retrospective, based on events that have already happened and the financial impacts of those events; e.g., purchases made, loans disbursed, services performed.

ROBERT, from LITHIA,FL writes:

Jim Nussle
Go to See what programs are working or not working and you communicate your concerns to your Representative and Senators.

Jim Nussle
Thank you for all your questions! The President's FY09 Budget has set clear priorities that will help us meet our Nation's most pressing needs while addressing the long-term challenges ahead.

If you would like more information on the Budget, please visit our website at I hope to speak with you again soon.

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