WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's ambitious goal of cutting the federal deficit in half relies on a perfect - some might say improbable - convergence of factors: a recovered economy, a tax boost for the rich and success in easing foreign entanglements.
In calling for a deficit of about $530 billion in four years, Obama has established a marker by which to measure his first-term performance as president. The dollar figure could be his albatross or his badge of success.
"This will not be easy," Obama said Monday as he kicked off a fiscal summit at the White House. "It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we've long neglected."
For Obama, the challenge is clear: He will have to increase spending on health care and energy if he wants to accomplish the policy overhaul he promised during his campaign, yet he also needs to cut spending elsewhere and increase revenue to meet his deficit goal.