The economy growing weaker, President-elect Barack Obama said Tuesday that recovery efforts will trump deficit concerns when he takes office in January. Yet he pledged a "page-by-page, line-by-line" budget review to root out unneeded spending.
The president-elect set no goals for reducing the federal deficit — now in record territory and headed ever higher — an obvious contrast to Monday's announcement that he hopes to create a recession-busting 2.5 million jobs by 2010.
He spoke as he appointed Peter Orszag, currently head of the Congressional Budget Office, to be his own budget director.
Obama's comments came at his second news conference in as many days, an unusual pre-inaugural burst of activity that he said reflected "the extraordinary circumstances" he will inherit on Jan. 20.
With his Electoral College landslide victory, Obama said he possesses a "mandate to move the country in a new direction, and not continue the same old practices that have gotten us into the fix we're in."
At the same time, the Democratic president-elect pledged to consult with Republicans and approach his administration with humility "and a recognition that wisdom is not the monopoly of any one party."
Obama's promise to be careful with a federal buck was placed in a larger context.
"As soon as the recovery is well under way, we need to set up a long-term plan to reduce the structural deficit and make sure we are not leaving a mountain of debt for the next generation," he said.
The picture took on troubling new dimensions a few hours before he spoke when the Commerce Department reported economic activity declined at a rate of 0.5 percent in the three months ending in September.
Further underscoring weakness, Americans' disposable income fell at an annual rate of 9.2 percent in the same period, the largest drop in records that date to 1947.
The federal budget deficit was a record $455 billion for the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, and is certain to be...